The Ministry of Science & Technology is planning to initiate manufacturing of medical equipment in six months and a national steering committee has been formed to implement the plan.
The goal is to save the two billion dollars worth of annual foreign currency expenditures on imported medical equipment and to improve current maintenance capacities.
The professionals in the biomedical and engineering field are unwilling to engage as maintenance experts, according to Getahun Mekuria (PhD), minister of Science & Technology.
To address this, the Ministry wants to link the production of the equipment to maintenance efforts.
“If we build up production capacity in Ethiopia, we will address the maintenance issue,” Getahun told Fortune.
The national steering committee is made up of 15 members and three subcommittees, of which one will be responsible for the study of policies that can enable the implementation of the program. The Ministry anticipates launching the project in one of the existing industrial parks.
“The subcommittee will review the policies and table a resolution,” Getahun said.
The subcommittee will be composed of representatives from the Health, Industry and Trade ministries; the Food & Drug Administration Authority [the former Food, Medicine & Health Care Administration & Control Authority]; Paulos and Black Lion hospitals; and industry insiders.
The second subcommittees will be in charge of the technical aspect of the program.
“It will have inputs over product design work and production of equipment,” according to Getahun.
The subcommittee will be made of electrical and biomedical engineers, product designers and medical doctors.
“The Ministry wants to present actual products rather than focusing on studies,” Getahun argues. “Within the next six months, this team will start developing the product design and get into actual production.”
The other two subcommittee will be set up with members from the National Accreditation Office, Standards Agency, Conformity Assessment Enterprise and the Intellectual Property Office and will analyse international certification and quality accreditation requirements and processes.
“As we cannot bring a medical product into a market without proper certification,” he said, “this team is mandated to study the international and local standards.”
Ethiopia imports medical equipment that can be produced locally, according to Ashenafi Hussein, head of the technical team, which is currently working on identifying priority areas.
“We have decided to prioritise equipment that can be produced using local raw materials,” Ashenafi told Fortune.
The Ministry plans to fund the project through partnerships and crowdfunding.
For Dawit Assefa (PhD), assistant professor at Addis Abeba University School of Biomedical Engineering with a decade and half years of experience, the initiative is commendable but needs research and analysis on what the nation’s priority should be.
“The committee should seek international expertise as we have few professionals in the field,” Dawit told Fortune. “In the long run, the Ministry should consider building a tailored medical supply manufacturing zone instead of existing industrial parks.”
The Ministry was established in 1975, mandated to coordinate, encourage and support science and technological activities to realise the country’s social and economic development.
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