The nature of politics is such that if a politician were to miraculously get all four boilers at Morupule B Power humming non-stop for the next six months, opponents would still feel the need to pour withering scorn on him for such feat. However, that is not the standard that Umbrella for Democratic Change’s Policy Director, Ndaba Gaolathe, is willing to apply on the government with regard to its stewardship of the Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI). In its 2014 election manifesto, UDC identifies one of the economic challenges that Botswana faces as “poor identification and targeting of high impact local and international investors.” In elaborating this point to theSunday Standard, Gaolathe makes one exception – BVI.
If endless dinner parties at the Gaborone International Convention Centre are a measure of success, clearly this organisation is underperforming. However, if the standard is sweat, toil and good results in a Broadhurst laboratory, it is doing super well. Gaolathe says that BVI’s collaboration with Merial, a global animal health company with headquarters in France and operations in more than 150 countries, has been hugely successful on account of the latter being “a high-impact investor.” A world leader in rabies and foot-and-mouth disease vaccines, Merial treats more than 200 animal diseases and health conditions. Its relationship with BVI has indeed produced truly impressive results. Using the latest technology in the vaccine production, the Institute has become a market leader in foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccines for Africa and the Middle East.
As a centre of excellence in vaccine production, BVI has been a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratory for FMD diagnosis for Sub-Saharan Africa since 1985. From its base in Broadhurst Industrial in Gaborone, it operates the largest laboratory in Sub-Saharan African that manufactures vaccines for all the strains of (FMD) on the continent – all the other African labs confine themselves to strains in their respective regions. Over the years, BVI has become a market leader in FMD vaccines for Africa and the Middle East. In response to a question, the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi, told the last sitting of parliament that purified FMD vaccine from BVI has been exported to Namibia, Egypt, Libya and Israel. In 2012 when there was an FMD outbreak in the Middle East and North Africa region, BVI received an order for 2 million doses.
It promptly blended an initial batch of 1.1 million doses, sending 420 000 doses to Egypt, 300 000 to Libya and 350 000 to the Gaza Strip in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Additionally, it supplies the National Veterinary Laboratory in Gaborone as well as the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Harare, Zimbabwe with reagents; collects and analyses FMD samples from the Southern African Development Community and other regions; provides consultant expertise as well as scientific and technical training to OIE and its member countries; and, as the regional OIE reference laboratory for FMD, participates in early diagnosis and provision of vaccine confirmation for control of outbreaks. Established in 1979 as a wholly government-owned commercial company, BVI also manufactures proprietary vaccine formulae for Contagious Bovine Pleuro Pneumonia, Anthrax, Peste des Petits Ruminants and Blackleg.
In December 2010, it opened a new FMD vaccine production facility where it later launched its new flagship product, the AFTOVAXPUR – a highly purified FMD vaccine containing all FMD serotypes circulating in Southern Africa. Gaolathe says that with BVI’s partnership with its high-impact French investor gives Botswana “a potential global competitive edge.” In his estimation, Merial is the sort of investor which could land Botswana “an opportunity to create a regional or global competitive edge in a sector or subsector.” In the final analysis though, Gaolathe is paying the government a left-handed compliment because the larger point he makes is that with the exception of BVI, it has largely failed to attract high-impact investors.