From 23 to 25 April, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the BMGF Convening on Livestock in Dubai. The delegates included Dr Peter Oberem, CEO of South Africa’s largest locally owned animal health company, Afrivet. He was one of only two South Africans invited to attend, and the only one representing an animal health company.
Agricultural development is one of the largest initiatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). To date, more than US$4 billion had been committed to agricultural development efforts, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Within the foundation’s strategy for agricultural development, livestock is one of five stated focus areas.
According to Dr Oberem, the Dubai meeting was convened to get inputs into the formulation and implementation of the Foundation’s livestock farming support policy in Africa, and to bring credible service providers into contact with deserving NGOs – many of whom are funded by the BMGF.
“Afrivet came to the Foundation’s attention because of the numerous projects we already run to bring both animal health products and skills to the millions of small-scale farmers and stock handlers in southern Africa,” says Dr Oberem. This contribution to knowledge transfer and skills development, and Afrivet’s focus on regional diseases that are sometimes neglected in the global arena, attracted much interest during the Convening.
Institutions such as Edinburgh University, The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (Tanzania), University of Liverpool and Iowa State University were particularly interested in Afrivet’s primary animal healthcare methodology and its digital platforms. Two of the smaller multinational pharmaceutical companies that attended the event have expressed a firm intent to invest in South Africa and join Afrivet’s primary animal healthcare efforts.
“These proposed partnerships are very exciting and open up prospects for expanding Afrivet’s footprint into other parts of Africa,” says Dr Oberem. “But most importantly for us, international collaboration and support will help us achieve our vision of contributing significantly to food and financial security by helping small-scale farmers to commercialise their farming efforts.”
Afrivet is well known for its collaborative approach. All its R&D initiatives are carried out in cooperation with global foundations, including the Moredun Research Institute of Scotland. As a result, numerous world-first and patented products have been developed and commercialised. Examples include Wirevax (world first), Moxziben, Eraditick Ultra, and Afrivet Acaricidal Balls (world first). Several others, such as a world-first BMC (snotsiekte) vaccine is currently under development.
Afrivet was founded in 2000 and provides animal health products, as well as knowledge solutions and technical services to farmers and veterinarians in Africa. Its locally and internationally developed and tested products prevent and treat disease, and promote food security and safety – which is the primary reason for existence.
Afrivet is, according to the latest SAAHA statistics, the 7th largest animal health company by turnover in South Africa, and the only locally owned, African company in the top 10 animal healthcare companies. The Makapela family, via Fish River Veterinary Supplies, owns 20% of Afrivet. The company has subsidiaries in Zambia and Mozambique, and exports products to Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland
The cornerstone of the knowledge transfer initiatives that earned the company a seat at the BMGF Convening on Livestock, is the Afrivet-sponsored Chair in PAHC in the Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, at the University of Pretoria.
Founded to improve the quality of veterinary extension in southern Africa, the Chair promotes the training of veterinary professionals and para-professionals at under and postgraduate level, develops quality training material, conducts research related to training and understanding conditions on the ground, and prepares final-year students for their compulsory year of community service as state veterinarians.
With global food security and safety as a national and global priority, Afrivet is positioned to make a massive contribution to the continent.