Young fashion entrepreneurs manufacturing PPE for hospitals and at-risk communities in Lagos
Owing to the major role played by African diaspora organisations and individuals in the African continent’s development, ADEPT, the Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform, is keen to highlight initiatives of the African diaspora based in the EU but also in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Norway. ADEPT works towards achieving a main goal: improving and strengthening the capacity and impact of African diaspora organizations involved in Africa’s development activities.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many initiatives were created by African Diaspora organizations in order to overcome it. The deficit in standard PPE in Africa and everywhere has become increasingly severe due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. In fact, it caused rising demand and panic buying. The WHO has estimated that 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response monthly. In response to this, the Assembly Innovative Hub announced its development into mass manufacturing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including hospital overalls, scrubs and face masks with Mask Assembly focussing on providing quality PPE for frontline workers, hospitals and at-risk communities as part of its effort to flatten the curve.
The Assembly Innovative Hub was created in 2016 by Yoanna Chikezie. Its main purpose is to support entrepreneurs in the creative and fashion industry by providing them with physical and virtual (URL + IRL) business, creative and professional support as well as consultancy service and manufacturing. They support young designers and artisans for them to have the chance to create designs at low price.
When COVID-19 hit, the shortage of PPE left doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.
The Mask Assembly initiative started in early April in Lagos, by collecting charity donations and distributed the 3000$ raised to the Assembly’s network of artisans, design studios and manufacturers. As a consequence, this produced 15,000 reusable face masks in two weeks which were donated to hospitals and at-risk communities as part of their COVID-19 response.
In regard to obstacles in terms of quality assurance, standardization and the capacity to meet the growing demand, the Assembly Hub raised additional seed funding from Africa’s leading technology innovation hub, Co-creation Hub (CcHUB), to establish factory production lines with the capacity of producing 10,000 units every week. Hence, the Assembly increased its capacity and standardization of PPE and continued its mission to innovate, empower young talent and contributed to strengthening the ecosystem, due to this expansion and partnership. In order to keep up quality assurance and standards, the Assembly has also partnered with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) to have every face mask and PPE item produced sterilized, along with providing advisory support.
Through this initiative, 55 jobs were created. In addition to funds received from charitable donations, the organisation benefitted from 12000$ in seed investment.