By Kondwani Magombo
LILONGWE, Mana: The European Union (EU) has pumped in a total of MK160.5m to two Malawian companies, Ethanol Company (EthCo), and Intelligent Monitoring Systems (iMoSys) to increase their production capacity in medical and pharmaceutical COVID-19 related material in a bid to fight the pandemic.
EU Head of Delegation to Malawi, Amb. Rune Skinnebach, disclosed this during the stakeholder engagement event under the Support towards Industrialization and Productive Sectors (SIPS) held at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) as part of the 5th SADC Industrialization Week and Exhibition (SIW) activities.
The two companies, iMoSys and EthCo, have been granted respective sums of 100,000 Euros (MK91.7m) and 75,000 Euros (MK68.8m) for the cause.
Skinnebach said the EU and its Member States, acting together as Team Europe, are taking comprehensive action to tackle the destructive impact of COVID-19 in the region believing that acting together now, we can emerge stronger tomorrow.
He noted that Africa currently imports 99 percent of its vaccines and that more than 90 percent of all medicines and health technologies, making it a priority for the African continent to strengthen local manufacturing of pharmaceutical products, and thereby improving equitable access to vaccines, medicines and medical technologies.
“We are awarding a financial grant to Ethanol Company (EthCo) which will allow it to scale up its production line and increase production of hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants from 2,000 litres to 7,200 litres a day,” explained the EU Head of Delegation to Malawi.
Skinnebach noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the high demand for alcohol-based sanitizers in Malawi, EthCo extended their core business and built a production line for hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants to meet the local demand for hand sanitizers and reduce the reliance on imports.
He further recognized iMoSys for reacting swiftly to the “extreme shortages” of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting its operations, venturing into the manufacturing of medical face shields.
According to Skinnebach, the EUs Team Europe is supporting iMoSys to expand the companys production capacity of high quality, affordable face shields for health-care workers and for Small and Medium Enterprises in critical sectors.
“The company targets to increase its production from 300 face shields a day to 700 face shields a day [and] it estimates this could create employment for up to 35 additional staff, of which 40 percent should be female,” explained Skinnebach.
Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, Michael Usi, who presided over the event on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Eisenhower Mkaka, hailed the EU for the grants, saying as a region, SADC needs to build capacity to address emerging challenges facing it, including COVID-19.
Usi described the event as important saying it does not only raise awareness of the SIPS programme objectives and its interventions, but it also encourages participation of private sector and SADC Member states in the implementation of the programme to benefit the region.
“Let me acknowledge the financial and technical support that SADC receives from the European Union and German Government.
Despite the pandemic, we need to demonstrate our solidarity for resilience even more, to stand strong together and continue to find ways to continue to develop our communities and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the minister.
Usi said as a region, SADC should be focused to improve the performance and growth of
selected regional value chains and related services within the agro processing and pharmaceutical sectors to contribute to the SADC Industrialization and regional integration agenda.
After the event, the minister toured and appreciated the exhibitions displayed by various companies, including the two companies that have been given grants by the EU.