Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African. Photo: Philippa Larkin
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African. Photo: Philippa Larkin

Proudly SA: Saving lives and livelihoods

By Opinion Time of article published May 11, 2021

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By Eustace Mashimbye

DURING my almost five years as chief executive of Proudly South African, one of the most rewarding aspects of my work has been how much I have learnt about so many different industry sectors.

On any given day, I might have a meeting about the steel sector, then move to poultry then sugar, I might speak to clothing and textile manufacturers, retailers or fast-moving consumer goods companies, during the course of which I have managed to absorb a wealth of information relating to each, all as part of our efforts to drive localisation.

Most recently, I was exposed to something else that’s new as we welcomed on board as a Proudly South African member our very first medical devices company in Akacia Medical & Healthcare Group.

We had a wonderful meeting where I learnt about medical sutures, which itself was a new word for my ever-expanding vocabulary, and the different materials used depending on the application (external stitches, internal dissolving stitches, veterinary uses, ophthalmological only stitching, the list is long!) as well as about the different needles and the skill of the workers that manually thread the needles, sterilise and package them ready to be opened in operating theatres around the country.

Akacia is the country’s largest manufacturer of sutures and related items from their factory in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape. In Cape Town their operation manufactures a massive range of other devices including medical tubing, anaesthetic and respiratory masks, drainage kits, catheters, wound dressings and many more items. These are just the ones whose functions I understood.

But this is making light of a very important and significant sector of our economy, more especially since the advent of Covid-19. Because of their expertise with masks, Akacia Medical was approached by CSIR to manufacture the CPAP devices that are an integral part of a South African-developed ventilator.

Designed by a 27-year-old South African CSIR engineer, these ventilators regulate oxygen flow without forcing it into the lungs, a process which compromised many more Covid-19 sufferers than it assisted. Akacia has now manufactured over 40 000 of these ventilator components, which have helped save the lives of many people.

With a staff complement of 400 and a proud history of medical manufacturing of over 30 years, Akacia Medical is firmly rooted within the two communities of the Eastern and Western Cape in which they operate. Black owned and BEE level 2, earned in part through its local value chain and skills development, Akacia Medical is well positioned to extend its supplier outlets to both more private as well as public medical facilities.

If Akacia’s and medical practitioners’ roles are to keep people alive, procurers in the medical space have an important role to play in keeping jobs alive. They can do this by sourcing medical devices and equipment from local manufacturers wherever possible and indeed medication, drugs and all their PPE requirements. They are after all, priced in rand, and can be delivered with very short lead in times with fully open freight and delivery routes.

Akacia Medical & Healthcare Group manufactures, sells and markets their range of quality medical, surgical and diagnostic equipment both here and outside the country, but it is here at home in South Africa that we need above all to support them to ensure that they continue their contribution to saving lives and saving livelihoods.

My interaction with Ronnie Krüger, the group chief executive of Akacia Medical and his team, reminded me of the Freshly Ground song Fired Up, as they are really up to the task of contributing to saving lives, while creating jobs in their company and through their respective value chains.

The least we can do as purchasing decision-makers is to support them and others like them that are surely fired up and ready to make a difference in our country. Are you fired up and ready to put South Africa first and buy local?

Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites

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