Making PPE in Mauritius

By Gary Seidman

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Mauritius-based medical device manufacturer Natec Medical saw an opportunity to supply the island nation with face masks while at the same time reduce its own dependence on imported personal protective equipment (PPE). Natec employs some 500 workers, half of whom use surgical face masks every day to work in sterilized clean rooms where the company manufactures angioplasty balloon catheters that are used in surgical procedures around the world. “We saw an opportunity to support the island with PPE while at the same time supporting Natec’s internal needs,” said Damien Saison, the business manager of Xtruline, Natec’s sister company tasked with manufacturing face masks. PPE was a new business for Natec, but within a few months the company was selling masks to the local market and exploring an export business for its face masks.

Expanding into mass production posed challenges that Natec and Xtruline, as new entrants into the field, were unsure how to manage. Producing face masks was noisy and workers had to be protected from the sounds; fibers also were being released into the air when the masks were made; and finally, exporting medical grade masks required meeting specifications that Natec was not familiar with.

That’s where IFC stepped in. IFC’s Global PPE advisory program, launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and funded by UK Aid, is aimed at helping manufacturers in emerging markets develop or improve personal protective equipment production. Working with Gerber Technology, Xtruline is now receiving advice and assistance that will help the company meet its new business goals, including increasing its manufacturing capacity and expanding sales internationally.

Natec and Xtruline’s expansion is not only adding jobs, it’s also helping advance the Mauritian economy. By investing in manufacturing equipment and know-how to build more complex products, Natec and Xtruline are giving the country’s manufacturing sector a boost and helping build the economic complexity that drives development.

In many developing countries, demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns exceeds supply.

IFC is working with partners to increase the production of PPE to meet these critical needs.

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IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets.