President Paul Kagame has, on June 23, led the ceremony to break ground for the construction of the BioNTech vaccine manufacturing plant in Rwanda that will promote scalable mRNA vaccine production in Africa. The manufacturing plant for mRNA-based vaccines is being built in the Kigali Special Economic Zone located at Masoro-Munini, Gasabo District, in a section earmarked for biopharma manufacturing. The Rwandan facility, covering the size of about 30,000 square metres, will be initially equipped with two BioNTainers (one for the production of mRNA, and one for the production of the formulated bulk drug product) and production is expected to commence approximately within 12 to 18 months after their installation. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Kagame said it is a historic milestone toward vaccine equity and Rwanda intends to build on this investment by putting in place the conditions to attract other manufacturers and innovators. “Rwanda fully supports BioNTech’s commitment to power this factory entirely with green energy, and we will work together closely to achieve that,” he said. “Vaccine manufacturing requires advanced regulatory capability as well as a highly skilled human capital,” Kagame said while announcing the recently approved establishment of the African Bio-Manufacturing Institute. The institute will provide training and qualification for this industry, he added. “With existing universities and training providers as well as private sector partners like this innovative institution will provide (a) solution for workforce development, from short courses to graduate degrees.” The President commended all partners who played “a critical role in getting us to this point.” “This is just the start, but a big start,” said President Kagame. Different dignitaries graced the ceremony including; President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Deputy President David Mabuza of South Africa, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Prof Ugur Sahin, Co-Founder and CEO of BioNTech. Others are Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat of the African Union Commission, Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall of Senegal, WTO Director General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, CEO Nardos Bekele-Thomas of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, and Secretary General Wamkele Mene of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Sahin of BioNTech said that it is clear that these potential future vaccines among other life-saving medicines must be produced in Africa for Africa. “We will work together with locals to establish technology and know-how on the African continent,” he added. In partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he disclosed that the plant will manufacture Tuberculosis, HIV, and Malaria vaccines. According to him, the first clinical trial for Malaria vaccine will start by the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023. WHO Director-General Tedros said Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the need for significantly greater local production of vaccines and other essential products in all regions of the world, especially in Africa which relies heavily on imported products and was left behind in the global rush for Covid-19 vaccines. “The best way to deal with inequity is to put the tools in the hands of those who need them the most.” President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana said this plant will help the continent achieve self-sufficiency in vaccine production to meet future continental needs for health security. Ghana reaffirms her determination to make this Pan-African vaccine project work and succeed. The company expects to set up additional factories of the like in Senegal and South Africa. The government signed a memorandum of understanding with BioNTech to initiate the construction of the factory in October 2021.