Pharmaceutical capacity and infrastructure

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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure access to pharmaceuticals for all. As the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable populations, the lack of access to essential medicines further exacerbates the impact of the pandemic on development gains, hampering progress in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNIDO provides technical cooperation and advisory services to advance local pharmaceutical production in developing countries. Building back from the COVID-19 crisis, local pharmaceutical production capacity for essential medicines and vaccines will be a critical priority to reduce dependency on international donations and to ensure resilience and preparedness for future crises.

Research & articles

  • COVID-19: Long-term support for biotech yields vaccine promise in Cuba
    COVID-19: Long-term support for biotech yields vaccine promise in Cuba

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  • Supporting medical waste management in India and beyond during COVID-19 epidemic
    Supporting medical waste management in India and beyond during COVID-19 epidemic

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  • COVID-19: Long-term support for biotech yields vaccine promise in Cuba
    Turning health challenges into industrialization opportunities for developing countries

    COVID-19 crisis offers opportunities to foster industrialization by building synergies between policy areas such as healthcare and industry.

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  • COVID-19: Long-term support for biotech yields vaccine promise in Cuba
    Increasing resilience of medical supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Why building future resilience requires a delicate balance between increased flexibility, efficiency and welfare advantages of GVCs.

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  • COVID-19: Long-term support for biotech yields vaccine promise in Cuba
    Vaccines for Africa: An industrial development approach to regional vaccine supply

    The consequences of drastic COVID-19 vaccine shortages in Africa make the need for continental production ever more pressing.

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Examples of activities

  • UNIDO works with the West African Health Organization (WAHO) to support the development of the pharmaceutical industry in the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) region. Together, UNIDO and WAHO tackle the main bottlenecks to the long-term viability of the sector and to enable improved access to high quality and affordable essential medicines, while contributing to the economic growth of the region. The pharmaceutical industry in Africa is a priority under the framework of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III), which UNIDO was tasked with implementing through General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/293. The development of local pharmaceutical production in the developing world has become all the more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find out more on the OpenData platform.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the necessity for access to supplies to hinder the spread of the virus, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and disinfectants. This project, which is a joint endeavor by UNIDO and the World Health Organization (WHO), aims at improving supply of quality-assured, locally manufactured PPE, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants to reduce the risk of, in the near term, COVID-19 transmission in Africa, and improve the response capacity of national healthcare systems on the continent. In the longer term, the program ensures greater responsiveness to future pandemics. More and better equipment is needed for increased resilience and to strengthen productive capacities in developing countries.

Find out more on the OpenData platform.


  • May 2021: How robotics, AI and Big Data are driving the digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry
  • March 2021: Mobilizing resources to build resilient local pharmaceutical manufacturing industries in developing countries - challenges and opportunities
  • September 2021: 4th High-level event on the third industrial development decade for Africa (IDDA III): Strengthening Africa’s pharmaceutical industry - learning the lessons from COVID-19
  • 1

    The pharmaceutical industry is steadily heading towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data are accelerating the development process of medicines and vaccines by improving the accuracy of patient selection for clinical trials and providing a better insight into patient behaviour to increase drug delivery and effectiveness. Advanced robotics can allow workers to safely perform potentially harmful and repetitive tasks while ensuring high levels of accuracy and quality. 

    The industry, which is expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2023, is also characterised by a strong market concentration. The COVID-19 pandemic has reconfirmed the need for building and strengthening local capacities to produce essential medical products, including vaccines, antibiotics and personal protective equipment. Within this context, how can developing countries harness the ongoing digital transformation? This session examined the potential of 4IR technologies to support the production of pharmaceuticals within the context of current global trends.

  • 1The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the strategic imperative of building resilient manufacturing capacity for essential medicines and vaccines in developing countries and regions. There is the potential to improve availability of essential medicines and accelerate access to novel products whilst protecting the innovation ecosystems that have so rapidly developed COVID19 vaccines. Developing the assets that can achieve these ends requires an ecosystem that ensures sustainable high-quality production. Requisite components of such systems include a conducive environment that supports investment, access to markets, robust regulatory oversight, and access to technology. Africa bears a disproportionate burden of disease and is dependent on imports for many essential medicines and most vaccines. The disruption to global supply chains caused by the COVID 19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of the continent and underlines the need to strengthen local production of these products. There are ongoing initiatives in this field, but accelerated progress requires a redoubling of efforts. Coordinated application of ´push´ and ´pull´ interventions could help build conducive environments and establish the market returns that will stimulate investment. The international community can play a catalytic role by targeting Official Development Assistance and Other Official Flows through a combination of capacity building, budget support, and market commitments/signalling. This adjustment will accelerate progress towards sustainable industry sectors in medicines and vaccines and lead to improved and more resilient access in Africa and other developing regions of the world.

  • IDDA3

    On the margins of the United Nations General Assembly and in the framework of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III), UNDO organized, in close cooperation with a number of partners, a high-level event to explore innovative solutions to the systemic barriers hindering development of the continent’s health industries and to discuss ways to strengthen Africa’s pharmaceutical industry.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted Africa’s vulnerability due to its reliance on imports for most vaccines, medicines and other health product needs. Participants acknowledged the need to expedite and support local production of pharmaceuticals and the health industry in Africa, as well as the importance of IDDA III and other frameworks such as the AfCFTA, and their potential impact to boost the manufacturing and trading of pharmaceuticals on the continent.

    For more information on the event and its outcomes, please consult the dedicated web stories here and here.