Skip to content

Rwanda Builds Africa’s First mRNA Manufacturing Facility

A porter carries boxes on his head in Kigali, Rwanda.

A porter carries boxes on his head in Kigali, Rwanda.

Photographer: Will Boase

Hi, it's Saul Butera from Kigali in Rwanda, where BioNTech held a groundbreaking ceremony to construct the first African mRNA manufacturing facility, part of efforts to reduce the continent’s reliance on western nations for life-saving vaccines. But first… 

Rwanda may be generating adverse headlines in the UK amid an asylum-seeker deportation saga, but one German company that rose to fame during the pandemic is keen to showcase the East African country’s potential to be a vaccine hub for the continent. 

BioNTech on Thursday started construction of the first African mRNA manufacturing facility in Kigali, Rwanda. Two BioNTainers will be delivered by year end, enabling the site to manufacture a range of mRNA-based vaccines, targeted to the needs of the African Union member states.

It’s the first factory in an African network to provide sustainable production capacity for mRNA pharmaceuticals, including the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. It’ll start producing 50 million doses in 12 to 18 months. Earlier this week, South African biotech company Afrigen Biologics announced plans with a Belgian partner to develop the first African-owned Covid-19 shot to reduce reliance on other regions for vaccines.