The firms that were tasked to provide enough face masks for the Rwandan community in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have claimed a lack of market.
In mid-April, some 38 garment companies were assigned to manufacture enough face masks for the local market and until May 8th, they reported being “overwhelmed” by demand.
A couple of weeks down the road, the manufacturers are porting a different scenario.
They told Kigali Today, our sister website, that since the last two weeks they have stopped working and are counting Rwf 1.2 billion loss.
“When we were approached and asked to provide face masks, we made heavy investments to improve the standard that was required to do the job. Now 3 million face masks that failed to get buyers are equivalent to Rwf 1.2 billion when you consider the Rwf 400 per unit,” said Swaib Munyawera, the representative of the face mask manufacturers.
Munyawera said that some people bought face masks way before they started this mass production and they are still using it, but, most importantly, he said, “there are non-accredited manufacturers who are killing our market.”
For the potential buyers, however, the COVID-19 left a gap in families, and with this in mind, whoever buys a face mask, they try to wear them for as long as possible.
“In a family of five, I would need to spend Rwf 2500 if I am to respect the guidelines. Where can I get this money? We do our best to keep them clean, period,” says Callixte Nyirinkwaya, a Kigali resident.
For others, however, the claim is that they cannot afford the cost. They recourse to a piece of cloth that they put around the face and call it a face mask.
To such people, the face mask should sell at around Rwf 50 or maximum, Rwf 100.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry told the media recently, that they are exploring possibilities that will allow the face mask manufacturers to get value for money.
Sam Kamugisha Director-General of Industries at the Ministry, said that the options include “taking the face masks to the rural community’s markets”
He said they are also exploring export options, but for the time being, “manufacturers may need to slow down production.”
Rwanda needs to stay committed to the COVID-19 instructions than ever before. The numbers are surging with now 420 total confirmed cases as of June 5.
More cases were found in Rusizi district which prompted the government to impose total lockdown in that district of the Western Province. However, public and moto transport resumed across the country, except in Rusizi and Rubavu.
Wearing a face mask is now mandatory rather than an option for anyone in the public and in a compound with multiple tenants.