“Government has a lot of work to do in Nigeria. I don’t know if it is politics that is inhibiting the economic growth of this country…”
Amaka Aniekwe is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Somes Multidynamics Company Limited, engaged in manufacturing, importation and supply of medical devices. She speaks on the prospects and challenges involved in the business and what government can do to help investors, among other issues.
Manufacturing medical equipment in Nigeria
I started the manufacturing of medical devices in 2014 and that was also the year I visited Malaysia for the first time. I started with surgical hand gloves for surgeries and treatment of patients for protection of medical workers from contamination. We later introduced other products like nurse’s cap, face masks and pregnancy test strip (PTS). The face masks are used for prevention of dust from entering the nose especially during the harmattan or dry season.
The medical personnel also use them at the hospitals especially during surgeries. All these items are registered by NAFDAC (National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control). I have passion for this business because one of the things that have attracted me to it is the need to educate people on the importance of hygiene. If you go to rural areas, for instance, you can see nurses carrying out examination without using hand gloves. You also have a situation where people find it difficult to protect their noses during the harmattan season and they expose themselves to catarrh. Our products are affordable and so people can get them and with proper enlightenment they will see the need to keep them handy.
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Sourcing raw materials
We produce outside the country but we intend to bring the factory to the country in future. There was a time I went on a trip to China because there are some of our products that have simple production process. During that trip, I discovered that it would be a lot easier to have the plant in Nigeria but I was discouraged because of unavailability of regular power supply in the country. When I was done with my feasibility study, I found out that it was cheaper to produce abroad.
Our customers are hospitals and food manufacturing companies in particular. We have distributors who take delivery of the items and supply to hospitals and food manufacturing companies across the country. 60 percent of hospitals in Nigeria use our products. We also have customers beyond the shores of this country. We get requests from neighbouring countries. We have customers in Burkina Faso and Niger Republic. I will say basically that our customers are the hospitals because every hospital needs hand gloves, every doctor, nurse, laboratory personnel and other medical staff must need to protect his or herself. We have big food manufacturing companies that we supply our hand gloves and face masks. You know that these foods and drugs must be hygienically prepared.
The major challenge has been inadequate power supply. When I travelled to China, I discovered that some of these products can actually be produced here but when I did the costing, I realised that constant power failure would affect production adversely and even the raw materials would be imported. The overhead cost was higher than importing from abroad, so it became a challenge for me. I am just concentrating on manufacturing and importing from countries like Malaysia, China and Thailand for now.
Resolving some issues in business environment
Government has a lot of work to do in Nigeria. I don’t know if it is politics that is inhibiting the economic growth of this country because I used to imagine a situation where the government will just provide regular power supply and good roads in this country, how much that would boost the economy of the country. If we had adequate power supply, some of these items would be manufactured here and we would have created jobs as well but unfortunately, the jobs that should have been created for our unemployed youths are taken to foreigners. We don’t need a very large space to start our production here in Nigeria but the huge challenge has been lack of power supply. If you look at the enormous cost one will incur if one decides to venture into manufacturing here in the face of poor power supply, the cost of running a generator throughout the day is huge. You can imagine a situation where you are at the middle of production and the light goes off. Constant power outages have their own cost, the damages that would have on the machines, so you can see that it is not wise for one to consider manufacturing here. If government can give us the basic amenity, which is power supply, it will go a long way in taking care of some of these challenges.
Staff strength at the moment
We have about 20 staff at the moment comprising our sales people, the office staff and some other casual staff who we invite when we have job for them.
Advice to women aspiring to grow in business
I don’t want to believe that women are lazy but I want to believe that sometimes our husbands do not encourage us to aspire to greater positions career wise because we are women. You see, in Africa, an average woman is seen as one who must abide by the rules set by her husband to protect her marriage. An average African woman strives to maintain her marriage. Our men should understand that being a woman does not make you inferior to the men. Being a woman does not make you handicapped. You have all the rights that would accrue to the man. In the sight of God we are all equal.
Men should encourage women, especially career women. The woman, apart from being a career woman, is also a mother and a wife. She manages all these responsibilities well so she needs all the support she can get. Women on their own should understand that they can make the move and should not be cowed into limiting their God-given potential.