BVI eyes East, West and Central Africa

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 15:58   |   Written by
BVI eyes East, West and Central Africa

What role does the Botswana Vaccine Institute play in the domestic beef value chain? 

Botswana Vaccine Institute Ltd (BVI) was founded as a result of outbreaks of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Ngamiland during 1977/8 with the technical cooperation of MERIAL, as a long-term solution for sustainable animal health. BVI now exists particularly to secure beef exports for Botswana. The Institution plays two prominent roles, firstly, as a vaccine production company and secondly as the OIE diagnostics reference laboratory for FMD in Sub Saharan Africa, facilitating the interrogation of various types of given FMD viruses and sources as well as making the final tests on how a particular virus matches any vaccine. BVI main mandate is to produce high quality livestock vaccines that can be used to protect livestock against diseases of economic importance such as FMD, Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), Pest des Petis Ruminants (PPR), Black quarter and Anthrax. Over the years BVI has worked in close collaboration with Department of Veterinary Services through timely provision of these vaccines to ensure a population of healthy and productive animals is available for the market.

Has BVI effectively played its role to ensure that ordinary citizens are able to access products and services to advance their interests?

BVI products (vaccines) and services are supplied directly to the Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Veterinary Services) Botswana to support official national vaccination programs that target all sectors of the farming population, including both commercial and subsistence/smallholder farmers. BVI further provides technical and scientific support during FMD outbreak investigations and laboratory confirmation, which ensures that proper vaccines are used and the correct policy decisions are taken. The availability of the purified FMD vaccine for emergency use and which permits differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA) provides a suitable alternative to mass slaughter (Stamping out) to eradicate FMD to sustain exports.
In this regard, BVI has effectively played a key role in ensuring that high quality vaccines suited to local conditions are always timely available to ensure effective prophylactic control of livestock diseases. This testimony can be verified by the continued beef exports by BMC to international markets including EU. 

Your export markets include; Namibia, Egypt, Libya and Israel, which other countries do you export to? 

It is true that the BVI has both domestic and export markets which extends over most of Sub-Saharan Africa, including but not limited to countries in Southern, West, East, and Central Africa. Whilst the traditional markets for BVI products are regional, particularly FMD vaccines (Botswana, Namibia, RSA, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia), Anthrax and Blackleg vaccines (Botswana, Zimbabwe) and CBPP vaccines (Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia), over the years this market has slowly extended to other regions where diseases are prevalent with significant exports of PPR vaccines to Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Eretria, South Sudan, Mali and Senegal as well as Middle East (Iran and countries in UAE).
Currently, which potential markets are you eyeing for your products? 

The potential markets eyed by BVI are countries in East, West and Central Africa regions, which have increasingly become important markets for BVI products, with countries such as, Nigeria, Niger, Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Somalia, and Djibouti taking a keen interest in acquiring BVI services and products.

Which products and services are in demand locally, and which are in demand in the export market? 

FMD vaccine (purified and standard), Anthrax, Black-quarter, and Rabies vaccines are supplied for domestic market.  All vaccines above are for export including CBPP and PPR. In addition to provision of high quality livestock vaccines, BVI also as OIE reference laboratory for FMD provides FMD diagnostics/confirmatory testing services, laboratory personnel training on FMD testing protocols and provision of reagents and the harmonisation of the test methods to all countries in Sub Saharan Africa at their request.

What is the response from exporting countries regarding the products?

BVI customers associate BVI products and brand with quality and reliability. The technical cooperation with MERIAL, the adherence to international quality standards and our ‘more than’ 30 years’ experience has made BVI the leading Veterinary Vaccine production laboratory in Africa. To assure our customer of consistent quality products and service BVI operations are ISO9000: 2008 Certified by BOBS since 2007 and working towards ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for the OIE Reference and Quality Control Laboratories. During 2014/2015 BVI was awarded supply contracts by different International organisations (OIE, FAO and World Bank) to supply vaccines for the projects they funded in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Mali and Zambia on the basis of the technical superiority of the bidding documents.
The BVI philosophy is also to work closely with its customers to ensure that the services provided are tailor made to its customer demands. This has ensured a strong partnership with countries using BVI products such that all services rendered are appreciated.

Locally, there have been ‘reservations’ regarding the institution’s ability to control FMD, especially in Ngamiland where there are frequent outbreaks, what are the major challenges in efforts to contain the situation? 

BVI’s mandate is to ensure provision of high quality FMD vaccines that have been manufactured according to international Good Manufacturing Practices and provide these to national authorities in charge of implementing FMD control in the field. It is in this regard that BVI continues to work closely with DVS to ensure that optimal numbers of cattle are vaccinated. Whilst this collaboration has achieved a lot in managing FMD outbreaks in Ngamiland, the increase in numbers of elephants has led to destruction of disease control infrastructure such as cordon fences. This has allowed more frequent cattle – buffalo contacts, increasing the risks of FMD outbreaks in these areas.   

What is BVI’s role in attaining competitiveness of beef products in Botswana? 

Routine vaccination of cattle in FMD risk areas with BVI vaccines has enabled establishment of FMD free without vaccination areas. This set up has enabled BMC access to lucrative export markets for beef products derived from the FMD free areas. In an effort to facilitate increased off-take areas, BVI developed a purified FMD vaccine in 2010 that should enable designation of some areas as “FMD free with vaccination,” beef derived from these areas can thus be marketed to regional and international markets.
The service offered by the Reference laboratory permit BVI to assist DVS to apply for change of FMD status from infected zones through free with vaccination to the ultimate free without vaccination though laboratory tests demonstrating there is no virus circulation in the population. Also allows BVI to adopt the viruses from the field to make appropriate vaccines matching that virus.

What is the current production rate of vaccines, for both local market and export market?

The production capacity for FMD laboratory is about 24 million monovalent doses per year but the current utilisation is about 55-60 percent indicating there is under utilisation of existing capacity. The domestic market comprises about 1/3 of production and the balance is exports.

Which organisations (local and international) have you created partnerships with in order to achieve your mandate?

Over the years BVI has forged smart partnerships with many local and international organisations involved in the management of trans-boundary animal diseases.  Some of the regional organisations include but are not limited to SADC (Livestock Directorate), African Union Pan African Vaccine Centre (AU-PANVAC), African Union-Inter Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), GALVmed, and some of the international organisation include the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Reference Laboratory for FMD (Pirbright Institute UK), CODA CERVA (Belgium), CIRAD, EU, and other international donor agencies to name a few. BVI also collaborates with other Ministries and Government Departments and Institutions. Merial still remains the technical partner for vaccine production and technology advancement.

What are the institution’s greatest achievements and breakthroughs so far?

Though wholly owned by the Government of Botswana, BVI does not receive any subvention from the Government of Botswana, and is self-reliant. Our greatest achievement has been that we have sustained our association with Merial (formerly known as IFFA Meriux) the world leader in the production of FMD vaccines, which sustained the technology transfer and technical support.

BVI is now the leader in the African continent as the only industrial scale producer of FMD vaccines and the only lab in Africa to provide purified FMD vaccines. In 2010, BVI inaugurated a new state of the art laboratory for FMD that allowed for doubling capacity of vaccine production, ensuring prompt and optimal response to country vaccine requests, even under emergency situations. The completions of the new laboratory also contributed to employment creation of about 20 Science graduates from the University of Botswana since 2009. Our contribution towards sustainable Animal Health and Production contributes to the Ministry of Agriculture mandate for food security. Our export sales also contribute to the GDP and FDI and support the economic diversification through Agriculture production.

Our recognition of the World Animal Health Reference Laboratory for Foot and Mouth in Sub Saharan Africa since 1985 is another milestone that recognised our capabilities. This was on the basis of the BVI contribution to FMD control in the Southern Africa region.