Rwanda seeks investors for mosquito net factory

Saturday March 19 2016

A child sleeps under a mosquito net.

A child sleeps under a mosquito net. Rwanda is looking for investors to set up a local factory that will manufacture mosquito nets, as the country continues to struggle to find a lasting solution to malaria. PHOTO | GODONG | BSIP 

By Moses K. Gahigi

The Rwandan government is looking for investors to set up a local factory that will manufacture mosquito nets, as the country continues to struggle to find a lasting solution to malaria.

The country recently experienced resurgence in malaria with the peak coming in the last two months of 2015, even leading to a shortage in malaria medicines in pharmacies and clinics around the country.

In a public advertisement, the government is calling for private investors to set up a facility which would import pre-treated net fabric and produce ready mosquito nets in the country, in a public private partnership.

This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that majority of Rwandans are at risk of contracting malaria, a disease which has already proved to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality.

The government has projected the need for a large supply of long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets in the country through 2020, making it a prudent to set up a production plant in the country.

Observing that in 2015-2016, a total of 7,412,937 nets were needed, from 2016-2017, 1,000,000 nets will be needed, 2017-2018, 7,470,858 will be needed, in 2018-2019 1.071,013 nets will be required, while 7,938,011 treated mosquito nets will be needed between 2019-2020.

Alex Ruzibukira the director general in charge of industries at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said this is part of a move to reduce imports.

“After receiving responses from the public, the interested investors will be vetted, and taken through a tendering process, our intention is to have the plant up and running as soon as possible” said Mr Ruzibukira.

Under its malaria and other parasitic diseases division, at the Rwanda biomedical centre, government promotes universal coverage of long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets, and between 2009 and 2013 government imported nets worth $17.2 million annually.

However government went into a mosquito net procurement deal with a Danish company Net Protect, which delivered substandard nets in 2013 causing a loss of Rwf10.5 billion in taxpayers’ funds. The nets lacked adequate insecticides to kill mosquitoes, so they were not effective.

Although the government said it was preparing a legal suit against the firm, nothing seems to have come out of the threat. The company neither replaced the nets nor refunded the money, with sources privy to the scandal saying the government stood to lose the case if it sues.

The nets, which were supplied by Balton Rwanda, were imported on the recommendation of the WHO.

In 2013, more than 900,000 cases of malaria were diagnosed and 409 people died of the disease, 30 per cent of them being children under five years.

Malaria cases increased by 68.6 per cent in 2014 to reach 1,598,076, according to figures released by the Ministry of Health. Although the efforts mounted between 2009 and 2013 realised some success, there was a costly laxity in the years that followed which led to a resurgence of malaria cases.

The ministry late last year said they are partnering with Egypt to seek another effective insecticide that kills mosquitoes, but nothing seems to have come out of this partnership yet.

Climate change-related conditions such as global warming and high temperatures, which are said to stimulate the multiplication of mosquitoes in many African countries, are said to be responsible for the increase in malaria infections.

Malaria claims over one million lives a year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa. The increase in malaria infections were also reported to have led to anaemia and depletion of blood in the blood bank something which caused panic among the patients and the public in general.