Since the 1970's, the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), has been preoccupied by the need for Member States to develop efficient drug procurement methods such as bulk purchasing for the public drug supply structures in order to benefit from the economies of scale of such operations. Funding and management problems within national pharmaceutical supply systems and lack of real political commitment have prevented the realization of such projects.
With the development of autonomous or semi-autonomous central medical stores, having their own funds and with some experience in tendering procedures, and due to the devaluation of the CFA franc, a real wish for regional pharmaceutical co-operation between Member States of the CFA zone was formulated. Consequently, the ACAME (African Association of Central Medical Stores for Generic Essential Drugs) was created by five founding member countries on 19 July 1996 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. These countries were: Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad.
ACAME inscribed in its programme the implementation of bulk purchasing of essential drugs, a subject that was discussed during its first General Assembly, held in Niamey, Niger, from 9-13 June 1997. The WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), through its Regional Director, Dr. E.M. Samba, immediately expressed its support for the initiative. AFRO provided support for the organization of the ACAME General Assembly and urged its Members to go ahead with the first bulk purchasing experience. Since countries have an experience with bulk purchasing, AFRO and the Action Programme on Essential Drugs (DAP) in Geneva, proposed and supported a study visit to the Secretariats of the bulk purchasing systems in the Maghreb and Gulf States in the WHO East Mediterranean Region (EMRO).
The study visit took place from 6 - 20 May 1998. The study team was composed of Dr Mahomed Dicko, Managing Director of “Pharmacie Populaire du Mali” and Secretary General of ACAME, Dr Mahamane Sekou, Managing Director of “Office National des Produits Pharmaceutiques et Chimiques” in Niger and President of ACAME, and Dr Rino Meyers, Managing Director of Medical Stores Department in Tanzania. The team visited Morocco and Saudi Arabia and held working sessions with the parties involved in the bulk purchasing system for the Maghreb and Gulf States. The discussion evolved around the organization of a bulk purchasing system, the process for developing the system, and the operations involved in a bulk purchasing cycle.