Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel says the shortage of testing kits, ventilators and medical grade masks has underlined the importance of Africa developing a strong innovation and manufacturing capability, and building more resilient economies.
“In March, when the virus reached our shores, we had no local manufacturing capacity for ventilators and yet the health care demand for ventilators surged. But today as we speak, South African-designed and manufactured ventilators are rolling off the production line,” Patel said.
He was speaking at a virtual National COVID-19 Conference held on Friday, held under the theme, ‘Harnessing science, technology and innovation in response to COVID-19: A national and international effort’.
The conference, which brought together scientists, governments, business and civil society from all over the world, focused on health innovations and technologies, and social and economic sustainability during and after the pandemic.
Patel announced that over the next month, South Africa expects thousands of non-invasive ventilators to be delivered to hospitals and medical facilities across the country – all made possible by South African ingenuity, and by South African hands.
“Within a space of four months, our country has gone from having no capacity to produce Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) ventilators, to now having the first units coming off the production line.
“As we build our production capacity, we will support our neighbours across the African continent with these ventilators. South African manufacturers have supplied sanitisers, masks and other critical medical goods to neighbouring countries,” Patel said.
He said the National Ventilator Project is one example of what can be done with solidarity and science, and what can be achieved “when we work together toward common objectives”.
“Other initiatives include the production of millions of litres of locally-made hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants, and the doubling of the local production of medical grade masks from six million a month to 13 million a month.
“We now need to bring that same spirit to the wider task of economic reconstruction and use our technologies, our know-how, our expertise and our social solidarity to rebuild the economy,” the Minister said.