The launch of a transatlantic bridge between the Caribbean and Africa to develop and manufacture pharmaceuticals for global public health is to address the issue of pharmaceutical equity and create a platform for jobs, investment and earnings for the industry in Barbados for the first time.
That was the announcement from Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley during a press conference on Tuesday at Grantley Adams International Airport, moments after arriving from several overseas engagements.
She explained that it was extremely difficult to establish the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, in particular the regulatory framework, but that it would be the first thing the Government will be engaged in over the next nine to 12 months.
Mottley said: “This has been a major achievement for a small state like Barbados to be able to locate itself as the centre of the Americas as the location for the development of the pharmaceutical industry. After the announcement of the joint communique, I believe it is fair to say that there have been a number of requests to find out more about it.
“We will create the regulatory framework for these things to happen. What is at stake is potentially 4- to 5 000 jobs in the next four to five years for Barbados, but the platform for this has started as early as April of this year.”
Standing alongside newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs Kerrie Symmonds, she added “The fact that the communique included the President of the European Union, the President of the European Investment Bank, President of Rwanda, President of Guyana, the Director General of the WHO, the Head of the Susan Buffett Foundation and myself tells you this is not speculative. This is serious work in action and that was the purpose of us to continue to go to Rwanda.”
The Prime Minister revealed that the Rwanda Food and Drug Administration was in Barbados six or seven weeks ago to do preliminary work with the local drug and health officials but stressed that the kind of infrastructure that has to be in place to facilitate a pharmaceutical industry was significantly different to other industries.
Symmonds said that Government was aware that for there to be economic growth in Barbados, it was essential to think of the island as more than just a warm weather getaway for tourists from the northern Atlantic.
“There is a lot of room for heritage tourism, cultural linkages in tourism and we have to therefore explore every opportunity that is available in respect to the African continent. In Rwanda, the Air Services Agreement between ourselves and them has established the rights which would be accredited to every airline on either side of the agreement. We would have to name an airline which would be flying representing Barbados’ interests into Rwanda and equally on their side, they have chosen Air Rwanda. We have no airline but that is a matter we will have to work through.”
That Air Spaces Agreement which was signed last Wednesday and covers passenger travel and the shipment of cargo.
On top of that agreement is the potential of another partnership with Rwanda stemming from AGRA (African Green Revolutionary Agriculture), a continental vision for the future of African agriculture, one which Symmonds believes Barbadians should not turn their noses up considering the nation struggles to produce enough food to feed itself amidst the consistent issue of food security.
“The fact of the matter is that the African Governments have come together to do something that we ourselves are struggling to do and are offering us an opportunity to participate as the sixth division of the African community,” he said.
The ramifications are:
There will be financing opportunities extended to farmers in Barbados and across the CARICOM, but Barbados will be the bridge that facilitates its entry into the region.
There will be a development of women’s entrepreneurship interests in agriculture so that they get direct technical assistance to uplift the opportunities for females in agriculture.
Youth in agriculture will benefit from a similar level of technical assistance.
Introduction of technology into the agricultural sector which will mean a more efficient planting of seeds and crops, better protection of crops through use of drones. (JC)