Moderna, the US biotech company that makes vaccines, has suspended plans to set up a $200 million mRNA vaccine plant in Kenya despite promises by the government to give it incentives, including tax breaks. 

The firm said on  April 11 that it was assessing the future demand for Covid-19 vaccines. Moderna’s decision comes after questions over delays in acquiring land for the project in a special economic zone on the outskirts of Nairobi, the country’s capital. 

The company said it has not received vaccine orders from Africa since 2022 and has seen orders worth over $1 billion cancelled as risks associated with the virus wane. 

“Given this, and in alignment with our strategic planning, Moderna believes it is prudent to pause its efforts to build an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya. This approach will allow Moderna to better align its infrastructure investments with the evolving healthcare needs and vaccine demand in Africa,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Moderna has been working on several other vaccines based on mRNA technology, including cancer, shingles, and HIV. It recently announced a breakthrough in the development of a vaccine for cancer.

The company’s move is a blow to President William Ruto, who, since coming to power, has been courting foreign firms to drive his manufacturing agenda. In 2023, the Moderna deal accounted for the largest portion of Kenya’s $861 million in foreign direct investments (FDI).  

The facility, which was to be Moderna’s first manufacturing plant in Africa, was expected to position Kenya as a pharmaceutical and vaccines hub in the region with a capacity to produce 500 million doses annually.

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