Manufacturers in the Kigali's Special Economic Zone (SEZ) are struggling to stay afloat as sales plunge due to closure of export markets.
Covid-19 pandemic is said to have forced cancellation of contracts due to a shift in consumer priorities while others have been weighed down by logistical bottlenecks that came with containment measures.
Pharma lab is a local company in the economic zone, which started operations in 2015 that manufactures blood collection tubes, urine and stool containers for health facilities.
Before Covid-19 hit the country, the company had markets in Uganda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, but after the outbreak of the virus the only remaining market is Tanzania.
“About 40 per cent of our production went to the export market, but since the pandemic began, this was halved because we can’t access these countries anymore, we have been seriously hit,” said Rugwizangonga Cyriaque, a shareholder and commercial director.
He said even the local market has been strongly affected, as the quantities taken by local health facilities has drastically reduced during the pandemic time.
“We are struggling with paying bank loans as well as other fixed costs, rent for our stores and we also didn’t lay off our contract employees, meeting all these costs at this time is becoming increasingly hard,” he noted.
He said the only thing that has kept them afloat is the fact that they started manufacturing surgical masks during this time, but their sales are also minimal.
Ufaco Vlisco has found itself between a rock and a hard place due Covid-19 disruptions after its orders plunged dropped. At the beginning of this year, the company had orders worth $500,000, the pandemic broke out when they were just a few weeks to start shipping.
“It is difficult time for our business, we lost all our export customers, they all cancelled the orders yet we can’t close, we have tried to pivot to serving the local market but it is also hard, people are not buying”
“We are struggling to even pay rent because we are not making any money, we entered the year with optimism but now the company is fighting to stay afloat.
“We retained 50 per cent of our workers, and that’s one of the many costs we are wrestling with,” said Saidi Hitimana, chief executive of Ufaco Vlisco.