Durban-based drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd has got commitment of a massive €600 million ($711 million) debt financing package from a bunch of development finance institutions.
International Finance Corporation is contributing €200 million while France’s Proparco is bringing in €156 million. Germany’s DEG and the US International Development Finance Corporation are chipping in with €144 million and €100 million, respectively.
This the largest healthcare investment and mobilization IFC has led globally to date, the World Bank’s arm said.
The announcement comes as governments across Africa have called on the international community to bolster the continent’s vaccine supply chain to respond to COVID-19 and promote longer-term health sector resilience.
Aspen, Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company, operates 23 manufacturing facilities across 15 sites. The financing will help the company to refinance existing debt, strengthen its balance sheet, support its operations, and produce vaccines and other therapies in African and emerging markets.
Aspen said the financing package is structured as an amortising loan, with a two-year grace period and with the final loan instalment being due up to seven years after its effective date.
Aspen has partnered with Johnson & Johnson to compound, finish, fill and package the Janssen (a Johnson & Johnson company) COVID-19 vaccine at its sterile facility in South Africa. The company has recently built a sterile injectables facility at its existing site at Gqeberha (formally known as Port Elizabeth), South Africa. With this new facility, Aspen was able to offer Johnson & Johnson filling, finishing and packaging capacity for its COVID-19 vaccine, with the first batches having already been manufactured.
“By partnering with Aspen, a leading vaccine manufacturer in Africa, and collaborating with partners in the development finance community, the World Bank Group can contribute to the continent’s continued vaccine manufacturing development and support knowledge sharing and technology exchanges,” said IFC managing director Makhtar Diop.
The African Union and Africa CDC announced in April 2021 an ambition for Africa to manufacture 60% of its routine immunization needs on the continent by 2040. Currently, Africa makes only about 1% of the vaccines it uses.
Including this new project, IFC has committed $1.82 billion in COVID-19 related projects since March 2020, of which $1.15 billion falls under the Global Health Platform that was created specifically to support vaccines and related initiatives.