Friendly economic policies hailed for revving up productivity MedTech employees package products at the company’s manufacturing plant in Ruwa recently

Africa Moyo

Deputy News Editor

The friendly economic policies introduced by the Second Republic, mainly the efforts to address the ease and cost of doing business in Zimbabwe, have helped businesses to boost productivity and employ more people, chief executive officer of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed firm MedTech Holdings, Mr Afzal Motiwala, has said.

The peace prevailing across the country ahead of harmonised elections this year, was commendable and a key ingredient for economic growth.

In an interview at the company’s manufacturing plant in Ruwa just outside Harare, Mr Motiwala said if the Government continued to support local businesses, a lot more people would be employed.

MedTech Holdings, which was listed on the ZSE in 1997, is a diversified group of companies engaged in the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of health, hygiene, beauty and pharmaceutical products.

The manufacturing division comprises a unit based that produces petroleum jelly, glycerine products and Satiskin foam bath, which many people think is produced in South Africa.

Before 2018, MedTech’s operations were affected by the prevailing political and economic situation, such that production was down to about 25 percent of capacity.

But following the coming in of the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, the situation has changed after a raft of pro-business measures were introduced and stabilised the situation.

Now, production at MedTech’s plant in Ruwa has gone up to about 75 percent in line with the growth in production levels at many local companies.

Local products now occupy about 80 percent of shelf space in supermarkets, a development that has helped create more jobs for the people.

In its 2018 election manifesto, Zanu PF and President Mnangagwa promised to create more employment opportunities for the people, and with favourable policies that guarantee predictability, more local and foreign investors are setting up businesses and ramping up production.

Said Mr Motiwala: “Since 2018, our numbers have been coming up nicely. We have been focused very much on the health and beauty products (cosmetics), and we are happy with the numbers.

“The auction system has helped as well, although it has had some challenges where on one side you are getting the funds and on the other there is a delay in the disbursement of the funds.”

He said presently they have 60 direct employees, of whom 20 are women, up from lower figures before 2018.

The employees are directly involved in the manufacturing processes while another 150 people are indirectly employed, and are involved in sales and marketing.

“Well before 2018, we had higher numbers of employees and just before 2018, our numbers went down but now the numbers have gone up again. Our production has increased from about 25 percent to about 75 percent. In fact, we are actually looking at increasing our capacity now.

“We have just been buying some machinery and everything; so it has been an interesting time. Like I said, the auction and the commitment to make money available for business have helped.”

Mr Motiwala said President Mnangagwa’s ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra “has made a big difference”.

“I think people are now looking at Zimbabwe better than before. There is not too much red tape any more. Some policies have been relaxed and you can see there are lots of players coming on board and wanting to manufacture within the country.

“With time, I think Zimbabwe should stop relying on finished products coming out of South Africa. The more we start manufacturing here, we start taking many people for employment and creating an industrial base that was eroded in the last 10 to 15 years.

“And I think that is so important to bring Zimbabwe back on the map as an industrial hub,” said Mr Motiwala.

He commended the Government for ensuring stability even in an election year, which was rare in the past.

“It’s really surprising that an election is just a few months away and we haven’t been affected by political issues and any major economic policy changes. Everything seems to be going on well. I don’t think we have seen any issues at all and we are very pleased with that.

“Continuity is very important in business; we want to know what will happen tomorrow, and we don’t want any surprises in the system. Elections are very important because they will determine the country for the next five years,” said Mr Motiwala.

He called for more access to long-term finance so as to boost the manufacturing sector.

Mr Motiwala said presently, interest rates are on the higher side and should be reviewed.

Last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe hiked interest rates from 80 percent to 200 percent to counter people that were borrowing for speculative purposes and manipulated the local currency in the process. The interest rates have been reduced to 150 percent since late February this year.“We need long-term capital finance of about five to 10 years. The problem right now is that we have money for a very short space of time. You cannot do a project based on funds extended over two months. If you get into a bank today and get money, they will want their money in two months and it doesn’t work like that.

“Once they solve that, they have solved a lot of challenges. Another big challenge is that of cross-border traders, who import truckloads of products and evade duty while as formal businesses we pay full duties. That is what affects our prices. The Government should support formal businesses because we pay taxes,” said Mr Motiwala.

MedTech manufactures Satiskin bubble bath using purified water to ensure the safety of users. It produces 7 200 units of 2-litre bottles of Satiskin bubble bath per day.

Production supervisor, Mr Aarnin Ismail, said their products are found in supermarkets across the country.

“The more we produce, the more we contribute to economic growth. In winter, the petroleum jelly line will become the busiest. All our pumping lines are made of stainless steel to avoid contamination. We will be starting more lines soon as we seek to grow the business,” said Mr Ismail.

Turning to competitiveness, Mr Motiwala said when they look at a foreign product, they always want to produce one of similar quality or do it even better and sell at a reasonable price, to attract the market’s attention.

“That strategy has ensured that our market share is consistently going up. If you look at our baby line, for example, it’s the leader out there. Those brands such as petroleum jelly have come out quite nicely over the last four to five years.

One of the employees who has been with the company since 1998, Mrs Chezy Makamula, said she was happy to be part of the team supporting nation development.

“The company is growing in the last few years and we are able to take care of our families from what we get here,” she said.

Mr Clever Zemba, who started working for the company in 2003 and is now commonly referred to as “MedTech Machine” due to his knowledge of the company’s operations, said: “We are doing well as a company and the salary we get is better. We are able to fend for our families.”

MedTech has a vibrant social responsibility programme, which has seen it supporting people in Zimbabwe in times of disaster.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, it donated sanitisers to schools, hospitals and prisons, among other places, worth about US$60 000.

Now they are planning to distribute sanitisers worth between US$150 000 and US$200 000 to schools and hospitals to fight off cholera and Covid-19.

The company also runs a daily feeding programme in Banket, Mashonaland West, targeting orphans and other vulnerable people.

Recently, Mr Motiwala and his son, Zain, flew to Turkey to assist after the devastating twin earthquakes that killed about 50 000 people, in Turkey and Syria.

Yesterday, he arrived in Malawi where a truckload carrying rice, sugar and oils had already been dispatched to support victims of Tropical Storm Freddy, which killed over 500 people, damaged homes and left over 400 people missing.

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