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TZ PRESIDENT SAMIA SULUHU PROMISES SUPPORT TO UGANDAN FIRM INVOLVED IN MEDICAL EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURE 

By Mulengera Reporters 

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan was in Uganda this week and had a number of engagements including participation in the Private Sector Forum Uganda (PSFU)-organized dialoguing session where the Executive Chairman for the Namanve-based East African Medical Vitals (EAMV) Ltd, Ben Kavuya, eloquently made his case.

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The Ugandan manufacturing giant, which veteran Ugandan enterprenuer Ben Kavuya heads, is involved in the production of medical and surgical equipmemt such as gloves. And responding to Kavuya’s submission, the Tanzanian President promised to expedite the implementation of the regional Common External Tariff (CET) mechanisms to amplify efforts by players like EAMV to access the broader market while availing safely and professionally-manufactured medical and surgical equipment.

During the same Wednesday business forum meeting, hosted by PSFU, President Samia Suluhu Hassan reflected on the very impressive accomplishments registered by EAMV which is Africa’s first and only professional medical supplies manufacturing plant. This is how she expressd her sentiment on this matter: “Mr Kavuya we have heard your concerns. We shall ensure that our nations (Uganda and Tanzania) do business together. We have excellent fraternal relations and now is the time to collaborate. We shall fix all the challenges you have mentioned.”

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In his submission, the EAMV Executive Chairman Ben Kavuya had requested for the entire East African Community to support life-saving initiatives that would also grow the economy of the region while supporting integration of one of the world’s largest trading blocs. “We are a highly aspirational manufacturer with high hopes in the future of our sector, this region of East Africa and the capability of Africans in general to produce world class products and services. The medical and examination gloves we produce are of world class quality,” he said.

EAMV’s Executive Chairman Ben Kavuya peruses a document during the May PSFU-organized business forum during which the Tanzanian President proclaimed her readiness to do more to support the Namanve-based medical and surgical equipment manufacturing plant.

Based at the Namanve Industrial Park, the EAMV Plant started by producing surgical and examination gloves but will be expanding its product lines to include syringes, catheters and condoms in the near future. The Company chairman Ben Kavuya used the platform that came with President Samia Suluhu’s presence at the PSFU forum to exhaustively explain how EAMV intensified its efforts when the COVID19 pandemic exposed Africa’s insufficient capacity to manufacture and supply essential medicines and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). The Coronavirus pandemic also exposed global selfishness that always disadvantages the African continent.

“Africa imports more than 80% of our pharmaceutical and medical consumables and 100% of our surgical & medical gloves. These imported gloves are powdered. Powdered gloves are detrimental to one’s health and in fact were banned in jurisdictions such as the United States of America and European nations,” he said.

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“We must ask ourselves why we subject our valued medical workers to health threats owing to the importation of inferior quality powdered gloves. During the pandemic, we saw how the rest of the world closed in on vital medical supplies like face masks, gloves and even the life-saving vaccines that are still in short supply here.

As Africans, we must say never again. As East African Medical Vitals, we shall walk the talk to ensure that never again stand carries meaning in practical terms beyond mere sloganeering,” Kavuya further asserted.

The Tanzanian President agreed that life-saving industries like EAMV needed state-level nurturing, support and the right environment in order to benefit the ordinary East Africans. The East African Community last week finally agreed to adopt the fourth (4th) band of the EAC Common External Tariff at 35%. The EAC Common External Tariff is an important annex of the EAC Customs Protocol as it reflects the trade relations between the East African Community partner states and the rest of the world.

Mr Kavuya specifically addressed his mind to this too by saying: “If the common tariff is implemented, then markets in the EAC, such as Tanzania, will become commercially viable. And EAMV will naturally increase its operational capacity to producing over 760m gloves annually to adequately serve markets in the EAC. With a population of roughly 300m people in the EAC geographical area, we are confident that we can serve this market if commercial viability can be confirmed through implementation of the common external tariff.”

The EAMV Chairman also urged East African countries to make the cost of money cheaper and more affordable for indigenous businesses like his. “The Development Bank in Uganda offers us loans at 12% and East African Development Bank at 8%. EAC should collectively consider creating Special Purpose Vehicles that can take on equity in strategic companies to support growth.

The reality is that we are competing with Chinese companies which get funding from their National Development Bank at 2%. This has put us at a considerable disadvantage,” Kavuya said as other PSFU members present nodded in approval.

The truth is EAMV’s surgical and medical examination gloves are powder-free in accordance with internationally recognized standards as validated by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), National Drug Authority and Uganda National Bureau of Standards. Most African countries still import inferior and powdered gloves duty free and sell them at low prices yet they are banned in the United States and most of Europe.

In 2007, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (now the African Union Development Agency/AUDA/NEPAD) sought to address Africa’s overreliance on imported pharmaceutical products when it developed the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA) as had been mandated during the AU Heads of State Summit decision of 2005. As a follow up to this, in 2012, the Assembly of Heads of State endorsed a PMPA business plan which consists of a package of technical solutions responding to some of the critical challenges confronting the continent’s nascent pharmaceutical industry.

Some of the proposed solutions include strengthening the regulatory systems and establishment of a one-stop-shop for information, data and business intelligence-sharing for the pharmaceutical industry players, governments, the private sector and Regional Economic Communities among others. And to boost local pharmaceutical production and in turn improve public health outcomes, the PMPA business plan strongly encourages the procurement of medical products from Africa-based companies as a matter of priority because the same leads to enhanced capacity enabling them to do even better. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengeranews@gmail.com).

 

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