ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY PROF. ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI
Allow me to welcome you all to Malawi. My appreciation that you chose Malawi for this meeting is deeper than words can say. As a UNAIDS Champion for TRIPS and Access to Medicines, count me as one of your participants. I will be with you in my thoughts and spirit for throughout the next three days you will be here. Let me also commend the very spirit of this meeting. We have gathered because we want to promote the innovation of technologies that save lives. This is the spirit that will save Africa. We have gathered because we want to promote ways of ensuring affordable essential medicines. This is our sacred duty. We all share the obligation to make Africa a healthy continent. The progress of our nations depends on having healthy and productive citizens. Only healthy people can fully participate in development activities. We need to be healthy to create wealth. The world has made health a priority development goal because everything depends on our health. Our Sustainable Development Goals emphasise that we must focus on ensuring health lives and promoting wellbeing for all peoples. In our case, we must also be belligerent in supporting research and development of affordable vaccines and medicines for developing countries. This means we must actively support the innovation of health technologies. Above all, we need to rethink our policies and harmonise them for this cause. As we harmonize our policies, we must remember that innovation will always take us to matters of intellectual property. These two areas must be considered together. For instance, we need to re-examine the Harare Protocol and the patent grant procedures for us to effectively promote policy coherence among member states of African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation. We must ensure that our policies are talking to each other even within the ARIPO country member states, among government ministries, departments and agencies that play roles in promoting health technologies and ensuring access to affordable medicines. We need to undertake urgent policy harmonization because policy antagonism can have fatal consequences. We adopted the TRIPS Agreement at the height of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic to crisis levels in Sub-Saharan African countries. People were dying every day, everywhere. Ironically, anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs for combatting the disease had become available. And yet, these medicines were very expensive and inaccessible because they were under patent protection. Poor people could not access the drugs. Governments looked on, helplessly, as populations were being wiped out because the TRIPS Agreement prevented pharmaceutical manufacturers of generic medicines from producing and selling cheaper versions of ARV drugs. Those times must never return! Let us therefore step forward on the path of innovation that ensures access to affordable essential medicines. Let us move to develop our local pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in order to guarantee access of affordable medicines in the least developed countries. Time is gone when we left the lives of our people at the mercy of others. Africa must remember that nobody owes us a life and we owe our existence to nobody. Let me also emphatically add that, as Africa, we must never be afraid of innovating. Innovation began in Africa. Civilisation began in Africa. Even the university began in Africa. Let Africa promote the spirit of innovation for affordable medicines for the wellbeing of our people. Finally, let me call upon global pharmaceutical companies to invest in Africa. Africa is not a place where we consume drugs. Africa is a place where you can produce drugs. I know many countries that have a favourable environment for investment, implementation of innovation and production of drugs. Malawi is one those countries. Malawi is fast becoming the investment haven of the region. You can do business with Malawi and Malawi is open for business. Only at breakfast this morning, we launched a Doing Business Report. This year, we have risen on the doing business index with 23 percentage points. In three years, we have risen with 61 percentage points from 171 to 110 on the doing business index. So, as I welcome you and the spirit of innovation, I also welcome drug investors to Malawi and Africa at large. I wish you successful deliberations. With these remarks, I declare this meeting open. I thank you for your attention. May God bless Africa!