• Eastern Cape Rising Sun

R67m manufacturing plant for EL

A R67 million high-tech sanitary towel manufacturing plant is on the cards for East London. Local sanitary towel distributor Ntombam Sanitary Towels owned by Babalwa Mbuku and Clothing and South Korean outfit M.View Global, in a deal facilitated by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC).

According to M.view Global general manager for South Africa Min Lee, the 8 000 – 9 000 square metre facility is earmarked for the East London Industrial Development Zone (East London IDZ). The plant which will be built on 12 000 square metres is expected to begin operations in June 2021. M.view Global will contribute state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment worth R24 million as part of the deal. The plant is expected to create 76 full-time jobs.

Ntombam founder Mbuku says the manufacturing plant will help the business enter the mainstream production sector and compete with major sanitary towel brands. This moves the company from selling from the boots of cars to mass production and distribution.

“Mainstream retailers should now start to take us more seriously. Currently, we import, package and sell sanitary towels to pharmacies, convenience stores and cosmetics stores in the Eastern Cape and in the Western Cape. This deal effectively gives us a seat at the table,” said Mbuku.

The ECDC and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) assists Ntombam with packaging support, and incubation support from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) with coaching on compliance issues. The ECDC also gave the company 490 square metre premises in Fort Jackson for packaging and distribution.

The ECDC’s sanitary towel distribution drive was launched at three schools in Duncan Village, Ndevana and Mooiplaas recently. M.view Global donated 100 000 pieces of sanitary towels which will be distributed to selected schools across the province.

“East London is an ideal location because of its IDZ and port facilities which will aid exports of the product. The plan is to initially target 10% of the products for the export market,” says Min Lee.

The deal between Ntombam and M.view Global materialised after ECDC met with the Korean Trade and investment Agency (Kotra) in Botswana in 2018 and Kotra indicated that a South Korean sanitary towel manufacturer was interested in setting up in South Africa.

M.view Global indicated that they would like to partner with a local company already operating in the space which resulted in the partnership with Babalwa Mbuku’s Ntombam. This resulted in a fact-finding mission to South Korea in August 2019, which included Mbuku, to see the scale of the operations to further advance the discussions around the establishment of the plant in the Eastern Cape.

“The companies have formed an operating company called Yamanina which will own the manufacturing plant. It will be 70% owned by Ntombam and 30% owned by M.view Global. A business plan has been finalised and the local partner Ntombam is raising the required capital,” says Lee.

ECDC Chief Executive Officer Ndzondelelo Dlulane says the deal is important in boosting local manufacturing, skills development and transfers, and in positioning the Eastern Cape as a manufacturing hub. “The development of a partnership with a local company is critical in building the manufacturing capacity of local enterprises and for skills development in the sector in general. The deal brings a potential for sustainable jobs and perhaps future expansion potential where deemed necessary. ECDC will continue to support this partnership until its practical completion,” says Dlulane.

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