Extractive economic and political institutions in African countries have locked-in the pharmaceutical sector into industrial under-development.

8 March 2023

In a new article published in Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics, Geoff Banda analyses the impact of extractive economic and political institutions on the industrial development of the African pharmaceutical sector.

He argues that the persistence of colonial economic and political extractive institutions, set up to for the benefit of the Empire, have contributed to the African pharmaceutical industry's underdevelopment and circumscription from global value chains.

Institutions and their infrastructures reflect the political and economic objectives of the agents who design them. Colonial political and economic objectives are keeping institutions locked-in to subserve global value chains, leading to persistent industrial underdevelopment.

“…well after independence, the effects of the Foreign Introduced Exogenous (FEX) Institutions are reflected in the economic structures of many African countries which heavily depend on the export of raw materials (agricultural and mining) to international markets with little local beneficiation or value addition. This is not a coincidence, but a product of persistent colonial extractive institutional infrastructures and economic policies,” Banda writes.

Looking at the pharmaceutical sector today, he identifies institutional shortcomings that can be traced back to colonial extractive institutions, such as a lack of policy design capabilities at a national level, a dearth of active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing, attenuated local financing for industrial development and entrepreneurship, and the lack of new broker or bridging institutions that support broken value chains and entrepreneurship for innovative pharmaceutical technologies.

In addition to funding R&D and developing regulatory and governance skills in emerging technologies, a transition to high-value, knowledge-intensive pharmaceutical manufacturing requires repurposing and creating new institutions that are inclusive and support innovation.

This analysis underscores the need to consider the political economy of extractive institutions in innovation systems theory application to African countries. Focusing only on funding, technological capabilities, and industry development, without resolving persistent extractive institutions, will not generate a sustainable transformation of the pharmaceutical sector,” concludes Geoff Banda, Deputy Director of Innogen and Lecturer in Global Food Security and Innovation at The University of Edinburgh.


Banda G. The political economy of the African pharmaceutical sector's "industrial underdevelopment" lock-in: The importance of understanding the impact of persistent colonial extractive institutions. Front Res Metr Anal. 2023 Feb 9;8:1020588. https://doi.org/10.3389/frma.2023.1020588