Personal protective equipment, such as face masks, are manufactured at Shona EPZ Limited in Athi River on April 14, 2020. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Kenya banks on local firms to supply critical medical kits
Local textile manufacturers have stepped up production of personal protective equipment (PPE) as demand surges and efforts to battle the spread of the coronavirus intensify.
The manufacturers are only happy to meet the demand for essential goods, which ordinarily would have been imported into the country.
From the Rift Valley Textiles (Rivatex) to Kitui County Textile Centre (Kicotec), Edi Investment in Nakuru and Shona EPZ, the country is now relying on these firms to produce essential equipment such as face masks that the frontline healthcare workers tackling the coronavirus pandemic require.
Last Thursday, and in a boost to these local manufactures, Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund chairperson Jane Karuku said they had prioritised the purchase of PPEs worth Sh600 million to support health workers in public hospitals.
“The PPEs will be sourced from local manufacturers in line with the goal of stimulating the local economy. The quality standards for these procurements have been aligned with the Ministry of Health specifications, guided by the board’s health committee of experts and practitioners,” Ms Karuku said.
This is a boost to local firms like Kicotec and Rivatex as ordinarily these funds would have lined the pockets of importers sourcing these products from Asia. “We have embarked on mass production of face masks in the fight against Covid-19. Our dedicated staff are working round the clock to ensure that we have a huge production of PPEs. This is in line with the government’s clarion call to all manufacturers to step in,” the Eldoret-based Rivatex said.
Prior to its transformation into a 24-hour factory for making these essential products for health workers on the frontline, Kicotec had been making uniforms, mats, napkins and gardening clothes.
“For us, we would like to ensure that we play an important role in helping the country combat this pandemic, saving lives,” Kicotec chief executive Georgina Musembi said.
Kicotec is now certified to produce face masks for government and also for the export market.
In Athi River, Shona EPZ is among manufacturers tasked with making PPEs for health workers.
“We have met the Kenya Bureau of Standards specifications to make the medical PPEs and community face masks. As it is, we can produce 20,000 aprons, 20,000 surgical face masks and 20,000 safety footwear daily,” Shona director Isaac Maluki said.
Industrialisation and Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina noted that with the local manufacturers taking up the challenge and delivering on the manufactured PPE locally, “this will make the country self-reliant, cutting down on over-reliance on imported products.”
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance said local businesses were up to the task, arguing that the pandemic had offered the country “an opportunity to harness and grow local industries, supporting existing ones to expand their capacity or incentivising the creation of new industries for import substation as well as leverage on the regional market.”