It is with great pleasure and honour that I join you today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI), a successful partnership between the Government of Botswana and IFFA-Merieux, commonly known as Boehringer Ingelheim (BI).
We are here to celebrate a very unique partnership, which gave birth to the establishment of the Botswana Vaccine Institute Limited (BVI) in 1979, following an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in 1977/78, in the Ngamiland and Central Makgadikgadi.
BVI was conceived as a project under the then Ministry of Agriculture following the signing of the Agreement of Cooperation with IFFA Merieux, later MERIAL and now Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) for the control of FMD in Botswana.
The main purpose of the strategic partnership was to conduct joint research pertaining to the circulating FMD viruses with the view to manufacture appropriate vaccines to control the outbreak. It should be noted that the Government of Botswana entered this partnership to protect the beef exports to the then European Economic Community (ECC) market.
5. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, When this project started, the main laboratory was a module or container, which was flown in from France in 1978 for experimental virus isolation. Subsequently the project was commercialized and registered as a private company in 1979 with the Government of Botswana as a sole shareholder.
The use of this module marked the beginning of a noteworthy progressive scale-up for FMD vaccine production from 20,000 to 7 million mono doses between 1978 and 1991, and a remarkable 26 million mono doses annually in the current facilities since 2010.
The completion and commissioning of the FMD antigen (active ingredient) production laboratory in 2010 at the cost of about P200 million raised from domestic financial markets allowed for the doubling of production capacity as mentioned earlier.
8. BVI successfully listed two Bonds, with a value of P120 million each on the Botswana Stock Exchange, thus contributing to the development of capital markets in Botswana. I am reliably informed that the two bonds were accordingly redeemed on maturity.
The listing of the bonds also paved way for technology transfers in the purification of the antigen for production of DIVA vaccines to permit the export of deboned meat of vaccinated cattle to high value markets.
This institute has evolved from a national and regional facility to an International Centre of Excellence in the control of trans-boundary animal diseases. Currently, BVI manufactures several commercial vaccines including FMD against the serotypes (Southern African Territories (SAT 1/2/3, Type O and Type A); Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP); Peste des Petis Ruminants (PPR); Anthrax, and Black Quarter.
The Institute is also a distributer of Rabies vaccines in Africa, which is manufactured by its partners MERIAL. BVI manufactures high quality livestock vaccines which are sold locally and exported around the world.
The export market contributes more than 80% of the revenues from over twenty (20) countries on an annual basis. The key market for the FMD vaccines is the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Other products such as PPR, CBPP, and A symptol are exported globally.
To this end, BVI was appointed the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) Regional Reference Laboratory for FMD in Sub-Saharan Africa since 1985, a status that the institute has maintained to date. The OIE aims to implement international agreements to enable member countries to collaborate to end outbreaks of livestock diseases.
Under this mandate, the Institute offers National Veterinary Authorities services of laboratory confirmatory diagnosis of FMD; antigenic characterisation; as well as molecular and genetic characterisation of FMD virus.
The results form part of a global FMD surveillance for coordinated control as a collective mandate for World Animal Health Organisation and Food and Agricultural Organisation Network of Reference Laboratory which BVI is part of.
Distinguished Guests, It is also gratifying to note that BVI collaborates with international organisations to validate its research results with national institutions like the University of Botswana, the Botswana International University of Research Science and Technology, the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Botswana Institute for Research Technology and Innovation among others.
Furthermore, BVI promotes and builds capacity for research culture for industrial development through innovative solutions using local Intellectual Property and commercialisation of results and findings.
The Institute has continued to evolve into a reputable African flagship with capacities to discharge top quality products and services. Some of the notable achievements include successful transfer of vaccine production technology over the years through the localisation of all critical positions in the production process.
You may be interested to know that over 75% of one billion people in Africa and the other parts of the world who live below 2 Dollars per day depend on Agriculture for income and livelihoods. The livestock sub-sector continues to contribute significantly to the African societal needs and welfare through food and non-food products.
It is however, regrettable to note that the prevalence of high impact infectious Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (TAD’s) in Africa has greatly constrained efficient and effective livestock production. To this end, vaccination has been identified globally as a key component to achieve disease control and where possible, eradication of TADs.
In line with the 2017 African Caucus Theme “Economic Transformation and Job Creation: Focus on Agriculture”, African Heads of State and Governments endorsed a collective vision for the next half century dubbed “Agenda 2063”, at the 50th Anniversary of the African Union. This vision embodies the promotion of inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa through the optimal exploitation of the continents’ resources for the benefit of all Africans.
Agriculture is the backbone and the natural starting point for the Continent’s transformation agenda. Effective and efficient animal health delivery services are central to the required transformation for animal production, the safety of foods of animal origin, public health and safer environments. It is therefore imperative for Member States to establish and implement national vaccination strategies and resource them adequately.
It is worth noting that the adoption of uncompromising Industrial practices from our technical partners MERIAL, has enabled BVI to retain its competitive edge as evidenced by its ability to win international tenders to provide the PPR vaccine bank. In 2013, BVI was awarded a tender for the OIE PPR vaccine bank for Africa over a period of three (3) years and thereafter in 2018 for the European Commission over a period of five (5) years. Although PPR is not prevalent in Botswana, BVI produces the vaccine to safeguard the region.
I am pleased to announce that BVI and BI have concluded research in the improvement of the PPR vaccine production technology. Through this research, a thermo-tolerant PPR vaccine has been developed, thus offering customers an out of refrigeration compliant product. This improved technology has increased production capacity to about 80 million doses per annum. PPR targets to eradicate the virus strain by 2030, and therefore position BVI to become the lead player in the global market for the eradication of the disease. In its continued effort to proffer customers products that comply with international standards, the BVI launched a project for the Blending and Filling laboratory that is compliant with the European Union Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in 2017.
During the renewal of the Technical Agreement in December 2014, the Partners committed to initiate a broader collaborative framework to explore the growth opportunities for BVI in terms of advanced technologies, product and market diversification towards increased economic contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the two parties to work towards the realisation of this commendable initiative that will allow BVI to expand its market. This is in readiness for the global demand for livestock products which is projected to double by 2030 due to population growth, and rapid economic growth in Africa, Middle East and Asia. There is a great need for sustainable livestock production to ensure that livestock products are safe for human consumption to meet the future demands.
I would like to emphasise the fact that the excellent work that BVI and BI is doing contributes immensely to the Government of Botswana’s efforts of achieving food security. Agriculture, particularly livestock, is the backbone of the economy of our rural communities.
To this end, our National Vision 2036 aptly states that we will develop a disease free agricultural sector that optimises the use of land utilising technologies and modern farming methods to improve productivity.
In this regard, I wish to assure you of Government’s commitment towards ensuring that this Institute remains relevant and produces products of acceptable quality standards. In conclusion, I would like to express my profound gratitude to BVI and BI for their close collaboration and sterling performance over the years which resulted in the production of quality animal medicine which has become the envy of many around the world. I also wish to commend the Board and Management of this institute for their visionary leadership which oversaw its exponential growth over the past four decades.
*REMARKS BY HIS HONOUR MR SLUMBER TSOGWANE THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA ON THE OCCASION OF THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOTSWANA VACCINE INSTITUTE, 6th DECEMBER 2018