Vaccines can be produced in Africa
I’m Jarl Heijstee, co-founder and managing partner of XSML. We manage several African funds, two of which BIO participated in: the African Rivers Fund I and III.
When covid-19 hit us in March 2020, Uganda and the DRC went into severe lockdown. Operating businesses became difficult. Revenues dropped and stores closed. This was also true for most of our portfolio companies, with retail as an important exception. With restaurants and bars closed, people spent more money on food at home, so supermarkets performed better. As retail makes up one-third of our portfolio, this was a glimmer of light during that otherwise difficult period.
Others were less fortunate. The healthcare sector was heavily impacted as people didn’t go to the hospital anymore. On top of that, it was difficult for the medical staff to come to work, with public transport shut down and the need for special permits to be able to drive around. Hospitals needed to be very creative in managing the additional costs and logistics. Now, in 2021, healthcare thrives and once again shows strong underlying growth.
Partly due to Astra Zeneca’s bad press in Europe, there is a great reluctance here to get the shot – only 2% of the population in Uganda and DRC has been vaccinated so far. Recently, however, because of the second covid wave, the demand for vaccinations has grown, but has run into the limited availability of vaccines.
The important thing now is making vaccines available and convincing the population that they are safe and beneficial.
Jarl Heijstee, co-founder and managing partner XSML
Vaccines can be produced in Africa. There are some very good producers in South Africa. And here in Uganda we have Cipla Chemical, the biggest producer of antiretroviral drugs for HIV, following FDA-approved standards. Although it would take time to set up, with the right equipment and training, it’s possible to produce covid vaccines here.
However, the important thing now is making vaccines available and convincing the population that they are safe and beneficial. That is a task for both the government and private companies. The hospitals and clinics are actively promoting vaccinations to their communities. The entrepreneurs and staff of our hotels and restaurants are also very keen to get vaccinated because it makes perfect business sense for them to do so, as it will make their guests feel more secure. At a certain moment, having a fully vaccinated staff will become a marketing asset and can differentiate between the competition..
BIO has invested in African Rivers Fund I and III, managed by XSML.
Jarl Heijstee is the co-founder and managing partner of XSML. This is his story.
African Rivers Fund
Equity € 4,118,275.00 (2016)Sub-Saharan Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda
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