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South Africa: Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Sector update – 13 May 2021

13 May 2021
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This is the first in a series of updates on developments in the pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector in South Africa and further afield on the African continent.

Draft national cannabis master plan released

The South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development recently released a draft national cannabis master plan which proposes legislative measures to lift the restrictions on the commercialisation of cannabis and hemp.

The purpose of the master plan is to provide a broad framework for the development and growth of the South African cannabis industry, which according to one estimate, could be worth ZAR 27 billion by 2023.

The master plan details a number of interventions including the following:

  • Amending existing legislation to remove constraints that hinder commercialisation;
  • Supporting research and development programmes;
  • Mobilising and supporting farmers to participate in value chains;
  • Developing new domestic and export markets for the South African cannabis industry; and
  • Developing and increasing manufacturing and product development capacity.

We await further developments regarding the implementation of the master plan.

Potential introduction of COVID-19 vaccine passports

South Africa is considering the introduction of COVID-19 vaccine passports, according to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

A number of countries have started to lift lockdown restrictions for people who can prove they have been vaccinated. The concept of digital documents has already been adopted in, among others, China, Bahrain and Kenya, with South Korea and the European Union also announcing plans to implement similar digital systems.

However, the concept has faced strong opposition in other countries, including the United Kingdom.

Part of the reason for the backlash in some jurisdictions is the high potential for forgery and false documents. It appears that there are hundreds of websites on the dark web where these documents are being sold for as little as USD 12. Forgeries have also appeared on regular websites and e-commerce platforms.

It remains to be seen if these arguments against the use of digital documents will be persuasive in South Africa, and if the Government will opt for a more traditional, paper-based system.