Amaka Aniekwe, Chief Executive Officer of Somes MultiDynamics Company Limited, a medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) manufacturing and supply firm. In this interview, she spoke on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and why Nigeria should encourage local manufacturers to produce PPEs and other equipment.
How can Nigeria address the scarcity of PPE?
We manufacture surgical hand gloves for surgeries and treatment of patients for protection of medical workers from contamination, as well as nurse’s cap, face masks and pregnancy test strip (PTS).
With the COVID-19 pandemic, I am shocked at the rate these items are going up, even in China the prices are high.
When this pandemic started, I thought about it and said that it would have been a great relief for our people if I had started the manufacturing, maybe by now, they would be getting it at a cheaper price.
If these items are manufactured here, we can easily source the raw materials locally. If you want to go into manufacturing and you discover that you don’t even have electricity to operate the machines, you have your first setback. Nigerians need basic infrastructure for the struggling and hardworking young people. All the government should do as a priority is provide electricity, build roads and the people are good to go.
At a time like this, why should we be lacking PPE?
This is because most of these PPE are imported from China. We don’t manufacture them in our country. I have told you earlier that these things could be manufactured here, but the infrastructures are not there.
Do you think it is easy to set up a PPE plant in Nigeria?
Yes, it takes nothing to make these things here. You will be amazed because these are what individuals can afford to do. In fact, let me say it is as easy as ABC. You probably need a space for the machines, for example, a three-bedroom flat is enough, for a small sized business to start the production of face masks and other PPE. You also need labour, which may not be too much, depending on the size of business. So if the government enables the environment, we would create jobs for our people. We must learn a big lesson from the pandemic, and begin to think about supporting local businesses.
Can we source for raw materials used in producing PPE?
Of course, yes. The materials are very cheap; non-woven materials are being used to get these things done, very light materials because most of them are disposable.
What can government do to encourage PPE production?
I have been to Taiwan and China to check the machines; they are not expensive at all. When I got back to the country, I was discouraged after my calculations because of the cost of generating electricity. I found out that if I have to manufacture in the country, inadequate and epileptic supply of electricity would make the matter worse for any business. I found out my cost of production was far higher than manufacturing and importing from China. We assemble and market these PPE for Chinese and Taiwan countries instead, we have only small jobs for our people compared with when everything is done here.