Condom factory squeezed out of business
• By Uaueza Kanguatjivi
A Namibian entrepreneur, Johny Maritz who built a condom manufacturing factory in 2002 which employed 45 people was squeezed out of business by tenderpreneurs with their cohorts at the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
This week Confidente visited the barren Commodity Exchange Factory and its abutting subsidiary company Dore Pharmaceuticals in the capital’s Prosperita area where the company has been idle for a number of years.
Confidente quickly established that the country’s first and only condom manufacturing plant which had the capacity to supply the whole of Southern Africa lies abortive with top class equipment while tenderpreneurs scramble for medical supply tenders.
The state of the art facility started its construction phase in 2001 and was commissioned by former Health Minister, Libertine Amathila and then Permanent Secretary of Health Kalumbi Shangula.
Amathila and Maritz decided partner with the Global Fund which led to them securing Doeka machines and start off the condom manufacturing process.
The company was behind a proudly Namibian product, the Smile Condom which was launched in 2006.
Commodity Exchange is one of three condom manufacturing plants in Africa and the only condom manufacturer in Namibia. The company holds Quality Control Certification such as ISO 13485: 2016, ISO 9001: 2016 and SANS: 4074.
Commodity Exchange manufactured products such as the Smile, YOLO and G-SPOT condoms, all their products carried the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) quality seal.
Not only did Commodity Exchange assist the country in knocking down its HIV prevalence rate from 14.4 percent in 2002 to 11.8 percent in 2011. The business also fostered Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which helped improve the situation of many Namibians. The company also employed two individuals with hearing loss who worked on special machines.
The initial investment made towards setting up the company was N$150 million and the company produced about 210 000 condoms a day and 50 million condoms a year.
Then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services Kalumbi Shangula in 2006 praised Commodity Exchange cc for its ingenuity, saying “Namibia now has its own official condoms.”
While displaying the condom at the time, Shangula claimed: “Government through the Ministry of Health, will distribute the high-quality, dotted ‘Smile’ condoms free to encourage Namibians to use condoms consistently.” In contrast to 17 years ago when he was Permanent Secretary, Shangula yesterday shifted questions about the investment by a Namibian owned company.
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