1 million facemasks manufactured
Orders worth over $500, 000
Sam Hart, is a lawyer and the Director-General, Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency. Under his charge, the agency has produced 1m face masks, engaged over 1,000 tailors, engaged 2,000 entrepreneurs, and paid out over N200m into this production The perfect fit, re-usable are 3-ply face masks are UV-sterilized, SON tested and were shipped to over 20 states.
The agency was established in 2015 and Hart was appointed Director-General in November 2019. In all, since Aba always has been at the forefront of local productions, the agency standardized production, provide a quality control framework and marketing. It paid off and soon they were orders from NGOs and large corporates. The agency also served as aggregators servicing strata of clients in channels the artisans would not be able to reach on their own.
How did the mass production of the face and nose masks start?
In Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia state, medical essentials were largely unavailable. The importers had run out. The pandemic was on a scale and dimension never seen. It was in those dire straits that the Abia State Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. had this idea.
It was a simple strategy – replicate most medical essentials in short supply but in high demand. The charge was given to the local producers. The Governor walked the talk by providing grants. This was a much-needed motivation for the tooling artisans as the requested items were beyond their usual scope of production. They also were no guaranteed patronage.
Under the governor’s instruction, the Abia State COVID-19 Task Force placed the first order- medical essentials for by health workers in the state.
Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency was tasked with coordinating this medical consumables revolution.
Out of over 100,000 tailors working in Aba, more than 1,000 with proven capacity were identified in the relevant clusters and signed up into a production pool. Another 2,000 are working independently in ancillary services. Samples of the foreign variants were studied and reverse engineering commenced.
Something good was going on. At this point, there was a need to up the ante. Delivery schedules were tight and the orders were pouring in.
Hart says, “We then leveraged social and traditional media to give publicity to what our tailors were producing and that was how the fire caught on.” The media publicity that followed was massive and unprecedented
By April 30, 2020, the agency had produced over 1 million facemasks under 30 days and distributed to about 20 States in Nigeria including camps for Internally Displaced People in entire North-East Nigeria. Orders from Kano, Kaduna, Benue, and even Sokoto are being fulfilled as you read this. The race to meet urgent orders had become the new normal!
As global supply lines from China dried up, the agency began to produce Personal Protection Equipment, PPE. In an interview with The Tribune, Hart outlined their new inventories to include, “Coverall Personal Protective Gear for Health Workers and the surgical gowns worn by health workers. We get new samples daily to replicate and repeat orders means we are matching what they demanded. Corporate organizations are also contracting us to produce personalized branded product materials for their free distribution to beneficiaries. We also produce hand sanitizers.”
Receiving certification from the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is evidence of the rigorous critical tests that products have been subjected to. Using ultraviolet rays, the Agency’s products are sanitized pushing benchmarking with global best practices. This is in solidarity with the peoples of Nigeria and in line with the guidelines approved by Standards Organisation of Nigeria, the National Centre for Disease Control and other such regulatory bodies.
Agency’s workers in the production lines are well protected in the factories. Wearing gloves, masks and other protection while handling the masks and PPE is mandatorily enforced.
Germs and other contaminants are eliminated in the final Ultraviolet Rays treatment before packing in waterproof casings. These are the guaranteed steps to meet required material standards for effective protection.
Sam Hart said that the Abia State Governor already commenced the construction of an international garment centre equipped with all the modern equipment needed for fast and reliable production. The facility is expected to come on stream before the end of the year. There also talks with African Export-Import Bank to establish an Export Trading Company which will aggregate Agency’s products for sale to other African countries.
Hart attributes the success of the agency to passion and a natural drive for sales and marketing. Part of trajectory had included working as Northern Regional Head for a Cosmetics Trading Company. The high points of that career were – creating market access for a relatively new brand to displace other established competing brands in the same market through innovative trade models including credit lines, guaranteed supplies, and after-sales support which ensured that our customers remained loyal to his brand.
Hart is also adding native intelligence to the knowledge from courses in marketing and business management from reputable global institutions. Abia State Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has been very supportive as well, stating that he is a “genius and always comes up with ideas ahead of the curve.”
Between 2003 and 2011 Sam Hart served as Special Assistant to the Governor on Media. In 2015, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu invited him to serve first as a Senior Special Assistant and later, Special Adviser. Hart would drive the Made in Aba Campaign – a global awareness and capacity building exercise for boosting local production. From there, he transited to lead the Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency. He also doubles as Speechwriter to the Governor.