Uganda’s health system has both private and government funded facilities. The government regulates operations of all healthcare facilities. Private companies invest in hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. There is no national health insurance coverage, however there is private health insurance provided by insurance companies. Health insurance coverage is low, estimated to be under 0.5% of GDP. Several hospitals also run their own health insurance schemes. Uganda’s medical facilities are attracting U.S. investors, especially in private medical care and oncology. Health received 6% of the 2023/24 national budget, but donor funding comprises nearly 80% of resources. Increasingly, the government is considering public-private-partnerships for healthcare investment, where government contributes land, and private investors build and operate a facility. Uganda has 23 sites licensed for the manufacture of medicines and health supplies, although only 13 of these are involved in commercial production of pharmaceuticals. The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), a government research institute, is a World Health Organization (WHO) certified yellow fever regional reference lab - the only certified yellow fever reference laboratory in Eastern Africa.
Challenges to developing the sector include the following:
- Technology, machinery, and the associated high-skilled expertise are sourced from outside Uganda.
- Uganda’s pharmaceutical sector depends on importing active pharmaceutical ingredients and almost all excipients and some packaging materials.
- Few Ugandan pharmaceutical manufacturers have automated production processes.
- High operating costs for manufacturers relying on backup generators.
- Few licensed cold and dry storage facilities to hold active pharmaceutical ingredients prior to final production.
- Limited capacity and infrastructure for regulation and quality control.
Equipment: With Uganda’s lack of medical infrastructure and large influx of donor support for health programs, demand for medical equipment continues to rise. Equipment in demand includes record management equipment and systems, ultrasound, electrocardiographs, obstetric dopplers, pulse oximeters, ventilators, cardiac echo machines, treadmill stress machines, and lab equipment (including equipment needed for microbiology, hematology, chemistry, and histopathology).
Generic pharmaceutical manufacturing: Uganda still imports approximately 80% of its essential medicines and health supplies. Based on Uganda’s strong demand for medical services and the government’s favorable tax policies for manufacturing facilities, manufacturing generic pharmaceuticals remains a profitable opportunity for investors.