Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan pledges to support East African production of safe medical, surgical equipment

President Samia was impressed by the achievements of the medical supplies manufacturing plant (PHOTO /Courtesy)

President Samia was impressed by the achievements of the medical supplies manufacturing plant (PHOTO /Courtesy)

KAMPALA — Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan has pledged to support the production of safe, professional medical and surgical equipment in East Africa at Uganda’s East African Medical Vitals (EAMV), through the implementation of the Common External Tariff (CET) mechanisms.

During a business forum hosted by Private Sector Foundation Uganda yesterday, President Samia was impressed by the achievements of the medical supplies manufacturing plant.

“Mr [Ben] Kavuya, we have heard your concerns. We shall ensure that our nations do business together. We have fraternal relations and now is the time to collaborate. We shall fix all the challenges you have mentioned,” President Samia said.

EAMV Executive Chairman, Ben Kavuya, requested for the entire East African Community to support life-saving initiatives that would also grow the economy of the region while supporting the 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.

The EAMV Plant started by producing surgical and examination gloves but will increase its product lines to include syringes, catheters, and condoms in the near future.

Kavuya said EAMV intensified its efforts when the COVID-19 pandemic exposed Africa’s insufficient capacity to manufacture and supply essential drugs and personal protective equipment (PPEs), and also exposed global selfishness that disadvantaged Africa.
“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.

“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 – 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 will ensure ‘never again’!” he declared.

President Samia agreed that life-saving industries like EAMV needed nurturing, support and then the right environment in order to benefit 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 said, ‘If the common tariff is implemented, then markets in the EAC such as Tanzania become commercially viable.

EAMV can increase its operational capacity to over 760M gloves annually and serve markets in the EAC.’

‘With a population of 300M in EAC, we are confident that we can serve this market if commercial viability can be confirmed through the implementation of the common external tariff,’ he added.

EAMV Chairman Kavuya also urged East African countries to make the cost of money cheaper in business.

“The Development Bank in Uganda offers us loans at 12%, East African Development Bank at 8%. EAC should 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,” he said.

EAMV surgical and medical examination gloves are powder-free in accordance with internationally recognized standards including the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the National Drug Authority, and Uganda National Bureau of Standards.

Most African countries still import inferior, 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 imports of pharmaceutical products when it developed the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), as mandated in the Assembly of AU heads of state decision of 2005.

In 2012, the Assembly of Heads of State endorsed a PMPA business plan which consists of a package of technical solutions to some of the critical challenges confronting the continent’s pharmaceutical industry.

Some of the proposed solutions include strengthening the regulatory systems and establishing a one-stop-shop for information, data and business intelligence for industry players—governments, the private sector, Regional Economic Communities and so on.

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.

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