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Africa's biggest syringe maker needs power fix

Nigeria’s most successful syringe maker wants the goverment to fix chronic power problem, writes Nsineno May Anthony

In 2017, Nigeria’s vice-president Yemi Osibanjo commissioned a $25m plant for syringe and needle manufacture in the southeast of the country. Said to be the biggest disposable syringe factory in Africa, it has since begun its daily production of 700,000 and annual capacity of 350-400 million, surpassing South Africa’s 90 million.

However, its overall success rests on a regular power supply, the lack of which in Nigeria has led to the failure of many promising business initiatives. Lack of reliable electricity means that some businesses have to spend as much as $3.5m annually on generators to plug the gap.  

Minister for power Babatunde Fasola assured investors recently that the government is committed to expanding the Nigerian economy through improved energy supply, maintaining that power generation has hit an all-time high of 8,000MW from the 2,000-3,000 MW it inherited from previous  administrations. However, this claim has remained controversial as Nigerian businesses continue to run largely on expensive generators.

Emir Kalalioglu, the managing director Jubilee Syringe, disclosed that his company spends N40m a month on power generation. Although appreciative of the waivers and taxes on imported syringes and needles, he said lack of stable power supply was a major impediment of industrial growth.

“We are running two factories – syringe and power generation. I want to hand over power generation to the government and focus on my job,” he told NewsAfrica. 

He added: “In Nigeria, every manufacturing company faces a huge cost of generating power  – this is why it is difficult for small and medium scale operators to thrive. In other climes, it is the small scale businesses that are drivers of their economy. 

“When there is enough power for industry, Nigeria’s economy would receive an instant boost of at least 50 percent, and insecurity and restiveness would give way to peace due to increased productivity and employment. Nigeria would take its place as the giant of Africa and indeed overtake China.”  

Prior to the establishment of Jubilee Syringe in Akwa Ibom State, there were seven other factories spread across Kaduna Kano, Ilorin ,Calabar and Port Harcourt, which struggled to reach capacity. Demand was met through 95 per cent importation from China. 

Kalalioglu believes that as a leading oil producing nation, Nigeria is in a prime position to become a major manufacturer of syringes. “The raw materials are produced in our backyard by the Nigerian petrochemical companies at Eleme,” he pointed out. “There must be deliberate effort by all to  stop needless importation – that is why Jubilee Syringe is here.”  

Ephraim Udokang a young pharmaceutical undergraduate of Akwa Ibom’s University of Uyo sees the coming of Jubilee Syringe as a welcome development in terms of job creation. “I hope to get a job with the company upon graduation,” he said. 

Already employing 70 Nigerians, many of whom have received overseas training, the company is owned by Onur Kamal, a Turkish-born entrepreneur whose businesses span 17 countries. 

According to him, the factory, located on 8,000 square metres of land in the Onna local council of the state, could open up a lucrative manufacturing arm as Nigeria had the capacity to produce four billion syringes annually.

He spoke of his appreciation of the support his business has been offered by the  state government. ‘To attract investors, you must encourage them, that is what the Akwa Ibom state government has done and we are glad to be here,” he said.

 “Our presence in Nigeria will encourage others to consider investing in Nigeria.We are here to add value and the expansion of Nigeria’s economy is our concern, we are not just here to make profit alone.”      

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