By Frederick Philander
Their collective social responsibility and health concern about the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Namibia led to the setting up of the country’s first and only condom factory.
John Maritz and his wife Sabina, two ex-teachers, thought over the idea of producing condoms locally instead of importing them for some time before they established the factory in Prosperita.
“Prior to setting up the factory with a bank loan in 1994 I was importing condoms and other pharmaceutical products from South Africa.
“On a certain day it struck me that locally produced condoms would be cheaper and more readily available to the Namibian people,” said John Maritz, the managing director of the company that today employs more than 40 full-time workers.
He and his wife run the factory in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Services as Commodity Exchange.
“Imported hi-tech equipment from Germany allows us to produce 30 million condoms per year for the local market, but we can expand on it on demand at a rate of 10 percent per year,” he said.
Commodity Exchange is one of the only five condom producing companies on the African continent.
“We have recently imported the new machines at a cost of more than N$12 million from Germany to increase production and to improve the quality of our products, which are in increasing demand. One has to understand that 10 years ago Namibians were very ignorant about the dangers of the AIDS pandemic. Today many more people are literate and want to protect themselves against the dangers of the illness,” he said.
The factory also produces individual and corporate brand name condoms on request.
“In addition to condom production the company supplies various healthcare related consumables and medical disposable products on a contractual basis, primarily to government and non-governmental organisations. We are also involved in joint ventures with companies in Southern Africa as well as internationally,” he said.
Maritz said that his raw materials for the production of condoms primarily come from Malaysia.
“The company competes with large firms with their experience, strong infrastructure and efficient systems, but with our own improved services we have over the years forged excellent business ties and relationships with such esteemed companies. We concentrate on high production standards and quality,” he said.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, is to officially launch the new state-of-the-art condom factory tomorrow.