How Kitui Factory Made Overnight Business Transition to Save 400 Jobs

  • Women sew at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) on October 27, 2018.
    Women sew at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) on October 27, 2018.
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  • Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) has hit international media after it made an overnight transition into the production of surgical masks.

    US publication Washingtonpost on Wednesday, April 8 reported that the factory had specialised in the production of gardening clothes, uniforms, mats and napkins, was now producing 30,000 surgical masks a day, matching the high industry standards of the N95 respirators.

    Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, most factories have closed with some advising employees to work from home while others are on temporary suspension. KICOTEC, however, chose to adapt to the change in time and retain its 400 employees.

    Workers at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) sew surgical masks on Wednesday, April 8, 2020.
    Workers at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) sew surgical masks on Wednesday, April 8, 2020.
    Washington Post

    With 80 per cent of the workers being women and a majority, of little formal education, a number who spoke to the publication expressed their joy in contributing towards a national, even global cause.

    "To sit here and do something that is useful to the world is a dream. I never thought I would be part of something that has the potential of saving millions from dying," Josephine Wambua stated.

    Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu had earlier stated that rather than the country wait on donations from other countries, local industries ought to step up because the country has the resources.

    Following the surge in the demand for masks around the world, Ngilu stated that it was high time Kenya looked within her borders for the protective equipment, that has since been made mandatory if one is to step into a public space.

    "Let's not wait and wonder. We import everything and produce nothing, despite having all the resources at our disposal," Ngilu stated.

    With 179 cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the country as of April 8, KICOTEC has stepped up its operations, selling the masks to public and private hospitals across the country in need of them.

    Mbuvi Mbathi, the factory manager, lauded the employees for fast adjusting into their new duties, stating that they had quickly learnt the work and were highly efficient.

    Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) on October 27, 2018.
    Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) on October 27, 2018.
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    "It was a challenge to bringing them from the village to where they are today. "But they are all experts now. They could each run their own factory, if you ask me," Mbathi stated.

    In adherence to the national directive to social distance, the factory has devised three eight hour shifts schedule to ensure they work with adequate spacing, rest and avoid congestion at the same time.

    The factory further went ahead to seek a dormitory at a nearby vocational institute where they eat and sleep, meaning they don't have to commute, thus lowering their risk of exposure to Covid-19.

    "We had to stop the things we were doing here to support the country. We should always be there for each other. That's what this disease has taught us. That you cannot exist alone. You need others," Celina Mutiso stated.

    "We are now making not just clothes for people, but assisting millions of Kenyans to get something very important that they need at this time," Hellen Mawia added.

    The publication reported that Governor Ngilu had expressed the intention to construct two more factories in the county, from the funds raised in selling the masks. She also stated that she would embark in training the rest of the country on how to make simple, cloth-based and reusable masks.

    Workers at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) on October 27, 2018.
    Workers at the Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) on October 27, 2018.
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