Health Minister Rallies for Export Substitution


Health Minister Dr. Ruth Aceng in the company of PS Dr Diana Atwine visit East Africa Medical Vitals, Africa’s first Latex manufacturing company. (courtesy)

Kampala | RedPepperDigital – Dr Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health, has called for import substitution for health services products and use the locally manufactured available on the market.

Aceng stated that it brings great pride for the country to have an investment of this magnitude: “We will say it with pride because it is in Uganda and done by Ugandans. We are extremely happy to make sure that we manufacture gloves in the country.” 

The Minister made the remarks on Friday 1st October 2020 during a spot check at East Africa Medical vitals; a latex manufacturing company, the only one in Africa making surgical gloves and one of the three on the continent producing examination gloves.

She further stated that the investment will go a great length to ensure that Uganda exports gloves to make sure that that the profits are reinvested within the country and also attract foreign investment into the same.

Dr. Aceng rallied the company to ensure that they double production so that there is the excess that can be exported and earn the country foreign exchange.

Dr. Aceng noted that the ministry will market the Ugandan made gloves to the global continue whenever possible via zoom since the pandemic has limited outbound travels. She urged the National Drugs authority to stop outsourcing gloves and buy it locally. She also said that they will also work around the clock to have international approval for the products.

PS Dr. Diana Atwiine also added her voice on the need for the country to build capacity to ensure that dependence on imported gloves is reduced.  She noted that the country will give priority to locally made products such as medical gloves.

Brian Kavuya the managing director of the company, in his remarks to the minister and her team, said that the East African medical vitals journey started in December 2006 in response to the government of Uganda’s Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU), policy following several feasibility studies which zeroed on the medical gloves.

The national drug authority played a key role in ensuring that compliance to standards and other requirements was done with due diligence that the right human resource was sourced since the field of manufacturing latex-made PPEs was a first in the country at the time and still is right now. Up to date, the Authority continues to offer its oversight role to ensure that quality products are manufactured. Licensing and market authorization for the products was also fast-tracked by the Authority.

He thanked the shareholders and board of directors of the company for making sure that what was envisioned as a dream has become a reality. Ben Kavuya; the executive chairman of the company represented the shareholders at the function.

In his speech, he said that the buy Uganda build Uganda policy is a good policy that compares to the Malaysian model but only tainted with bureaucracies in the process of acquiring funding from the Uganda Development corporation bank.

The executive chairman also noted the challenge of raw materials in form of rubber. A rubber tree on average takes five years to grow and can be tapped for 25 years.

WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED THUS FAR?

A total of USD12.7M was invested in the company to date in a mix of debt and equity, and 200 Ugandans employed with the number expected to increase to 258 by the end of the FY2021/22.

The plant has a 12,000 pieces per hour capacity with a total of 8.6 million pieces per month and over 103 million pieces annually which account for 85% of Uganda’s consumption of gloves.

The company will extend the production line by USD3M in five years, which will double the annual production capacity. Both latex and nitryl powder-free surgical and examination gloves are produced at the plant with priority given to the country’s health sector.

He also said that the country needs to transit from the use of powdered gloves which are banned in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and other developed European countries.

The managing director made the call to the national drug authority to increase the verification fees for imported surgical gloves from the current 2% to 12% to allow competitiveness in the market.

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