Kenya’s Cabinet Greenlights Move to Ratify African Medicines Agency Treaty
President Kenyatta chairing a cabinet meeting.

[NAIROBI] Kenya is preparing to join the African Medicines Agency alongside thirty-one other African Union member states following the Kenyan cabinet’s decision to approve the ratification of the African Union Treaty last Thursday. 

The move by the cabinet, chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, would be a major boost to the AMA’s establishment given that Kenya is one of the leading countries in the Africa Union (AU). Her support, alongside others big countries recently such as Ethiopia, will be critical in building further momentum and swinging countries still holding back, such as Nigeria and South Africa, behind the treaty. 


Kenya wants to bid to host the AMA 

Dr Kanyenje Gakombe, the chairperson of the Kenya Health Federation.

The Kenya Health Federation (KHF) welcomed the Cabinet moves, with chairperson Dr Kanyenje Gakombe, saying that the pending ratification will help position Kenya to bid to the AU to host the new AMA Headquarters.  The AU is currently collecting submissions of interest from countries regarding a host country. 

“KHF, which is the Health Sector Board of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), salutes the cabinet and the Ministry of Health for moving a step further towards the signing and ratification of the AMA Treaty,” Gakombe said in a press release.

KHF asked Members of Parliament to expedite the necessary legislation that will formalize Kenya’s ratification of the AMA treaty. He said he hoped that might also position Kenya to bid to hope  the new medicines authority.

“Kenya is currently well placed and resourced intellectually to act as the AMA host site of choice. The recent commitment by Moderna is a good example, and we have a good chance to scale up the commitments ten times if we push and lobby for the hosting of AMA in Kenya,” Gakombe told Health Policy Watch.

He was referring to the recent US$500 million investment commitment from the US-based pharmaceutical firm Moderna to set up an mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in the country. 

According to Gakombe, hosting of the AMA could position the country to leverage foreign direct investment flows from the pharma sector of up to $4,8 billion in the short-to-medium term.

However, AU sources clarified to Health Policy Watch that the bidding for hosting the agency is already closed. Eight countries applied, but Kenya was not among the ones to meet the deadline for formal consideration, underway in June, 2022.

“The bid for hosting AMA has long been closed by the Commission and 8 countries that expressed interest to host have been assessed pending the final decision by Assembly to decide who hosts AMA,” the source told Health Policy Watch.

Streamlining medicines and vaccines approvals

The AMA Treaty, which entered into force on 5th November 2021, is an African continental agency that aims to improve regulation of medicines, medical products and technologies.  

Those advocating for the continent-wide approach to medicines regulation believe it will help streamline medicines and vaccines reviews and approvals for faster uptake of new treatments. 

A unified regulatory mechanism could also pave the way for more efficient bulk procurement of medicines and vaccines, through the AU or regional blocs of countries – reducing costs and curbing the infiltration of fake medicines. In addition, the AMA could be critical in ensuring more local production.

Eight African Countries bid to host the AMA


Reportedly, neighboring Uganda is among the countries that has reported placed a formal bid to host the agency. Others bidders are said to include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Rwanda, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zimbabwe, but these reports have not been formally confirmed. 

As Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, said in March, his country has the required capacity to host AMA following its investments in developing and manufacturing HIV/AIDS drugs for the last decade, including by flagship firms like Cipla.

Museveni said he was meeting a team from the African Union, which was on a verification mission of countries bidding to host the AMA headquarters.

AMA good for Kenya public health  – regardless of where it is hosted  

Dr Bernard Langat, Programme Director in charge of HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Noncommunicable Diseases at Amref Health Africa.

Dr Bernard Langat, Programme Director in charge of HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Noncommunicable Diseases at Amref Health Africa in Kenya, also urged the Kenya parliament to “move with speed in legislating necessary legal instruments needed to make this a reality. I hope they will do that before the house takes a break soon as we have general elections coming up in August,” he told Health Policy Watch.

While supportive of Kenya’s bid to host the AMA, he said that public health in Kenya will be a winner regardless of where the agency is located.

“It is a good idea to lobby for it to be hosted by Kenya but the country is already a host to many international bodies, such as UN-Habitat and UNEP, and we should be happy to support others if it is not domiciled here,” he says.

Langata who is also the leader for supporting the Coalition for Health Research and Development hosted by Amref Health Africa in Nairobi believes that AMA will bestow huge benefits to countries ready to commit to it.

“There will be a lot of benefits,” he said, listing them as: “ harmonization of the different national medicines regulatory procedures; capacity building for medicines and vaccines reviews and approvals as countries are at different levels of maturity; ensuring availability of quality pharmaceutical products and smooth cross-border trade in health products among countries that have ratified AMA.”

 See our AMA Countdown page: 

African Medicines Agency Countdown

Updated  2 June, 2022

Image Credits: PPU, Amref Health Africa.

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