Uganda: 10 firms scramble to make masks

Mamos Media

Measure. A man wearing an improvised face mask in downtown Kampala recently. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Monitor Team

A multi-billion facial masks manufacturing deal to the Nyanza Textile Industries Limited (Nytil), a local integrated textile company, blew up the lead on what lawmakers have called “unfairness” in the award of the contract.

As lawmakers questioned the facial masks deal, 10 companies, including Nytil, were at the Office of Prime Minister scrambling to manufacture and supply free government masks.
With effect from June 2, Ugandans aged six years and above will be required to wear masks in public.

Although President Museveni did not talk about other mask suppliers during his address on Monday, the national taskforce on Covid-19 yesterday opened discussions with 10 local companies which declared their capacity to join Nytil in producing undisclosed number of masks.

The President said public transport would resume after Nytil has delivered the consignment even as other stakeholders in the fight against the virus questioned Nytil capacity to supply the required masks within the restricted time frame.

However, Mr Julius Mucunguzi, the spokesperson at the Office of the Prime Minister, yesterday said he was not authorised to answer the questions and explained that a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, was underway to develop guidelines to aid the manufacture of the masks.

Daily Monitor understands that the draft guidelines will first be presented to the President before they share the outcome to the public.

Dr Rugunda is expected to brief the President about the latest scramble for the masks and the need to renegotiate the Nytil deal in order to accommodate other competent local manufacturers.

In a closed-door meeting with the PM and other government officials on the national taskforce, each of the 10 companies under Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), presented their credentials and readiness to join Nytil in order to expedite the process.

Others asked government to walk the Buy Uganda, Build Uganda (BUBU) talk.

Mr Mubarak Kirunda, the director in charge of membership services at UMA, confirmed that some of its 10 companies are interested to partner with government in producing more than 40 million masks.
He said they agreed on some of the specifications for the mask in their meeting with the taskforce yesterday and will present their samples today before signing a contract with the Ministry of Health.

However, a senior official at the ministry said it is pending the presidential approval.
“These people have been producing masks. But now there is a particular standard that has been agreed upon. The standard has to be cotton and two-ply, where there is a pocket where to insert a filter. The members have agreed they have capacity and where need be, they have agreed to increase manpower to make sure that this is done,” Mr Kirunda said.
“The companies are coming tomorrow with the right samples to sign contracts with Ministry of Health. The ministry will contract them as individual companies. We had some scientists who advised the standards needed for this pandemic. The masks are going to be reusable. The cost will be ministry of finance to decide after getting all these samples. The filter is disposable. The cotton is washable,” he added.

Ministers Dr Jane Ruth Aceng (Health), Amelia Kyambadde (Trade) and Mr David Bahati (Finance for planning) also attended the closed-door meeting.

Mr Kirunda acknowledged that Uganda National Bureau of Standards will first certify the masks before the public use them. It is not clear when UNBS team will receive the masks for approval. For now, it also not clear whether all the 10 companies will be cleared to manufacture masks and how they will share the contract obligations.

On contracts
Mr Julius Mucunguzi, OPM spokesperson: “I cannot say which of those proposals have been approved because it needs to go through the processes. There was a meeting with key mask manufacturers to talk about their preparedness to respond to the need of masks in the country.

The President mentioned Nytil but the committee met more than Nytil. What is not contestable is the need for people to wear masks in public. The modalities of production, of distribution, of speed, time have been part of the issues that the President guided that the Prime Minister should chair and clarify, which meeting is underway.”

FIRMS that met PM
Companies Capacity per day
Bier Safety & Security 2,000
Big Concepts 5,000
Ex-Ken Uganda Limited 5,000
Fine Spinners 50,000
Graphic Systems Ltd 50,000
Sigma Knitting Ind 5,000
Nytil 200,000
Winfred Fashion Designers 2,000
Nice House of Plastics
Unique uniforms

Reported by Patience Ahimbisibwe, Risdel Kasasira & Irene Abalo Otto.

Source Daiy Monitor.

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