Business solidarity coalition Business for South Africa (B4SA) on May 28 said the focus of its personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement platform over the past four weeks had been to pivot its procurement efforts to identify, capacitate and source from local manufacturers and/or black-owned suppliers.
The coalition, including core sponsors the Black Business Council and Business Unity South Africa, had focused its PPE procurement efforts in the early stages of the response to the pandemic on securing urgent, bulk quantities of product from a highly constrained global PPE market.
B4SA has conducted two order phases to date and is currently entering its third.
In the first phase, where it needed to urgently bolster bulk stocks for the country, 28% of orders were from local and/or black-owned suppliers. In the second phase, it procured 60% of stock from local and/or black-owned suppliers.
It is aiming to procure between 80% and 90% of PPE orders from these suppliers in the third phase.
The fundamental criteria that underscores B4SA’s procurement strategy are price, quality, availability and empowerment, it said.
All suppliers are vetted through the B4SA procurement portal, where they undergo a two-part vetting process. The first stage is the vetting of supplier companies and the second is the vetting of that supplier’s products, the coalition said in a statement.
"The country’s projected required spend for PPE until October is R7.5-billion. While donors are helping to bridge this gap, and B4SA has, to date, facilitated donations in excess of R1.2-billion, much more is needed."
The forward looking procurement pipeline stands at R200-million and B4SA’s procurement focus is on securing gloves, gowns, scrubs, sanitiser, face visors, biohazard bags and filtering facepiece class 2 (FFP2) masks. Its order book is currently at R1.1-billion, which includes the procurement of N95 respirators, surgical masks for patients and healthcare workers, gowns, goggles or face visors, gloves, sanitisers and ventilators.
B4SA Health Workgroup chair Stavros Nicoloau, meanwhile, said the initial lockdown had played a critical role in allowing the country to prepare for the inevitable rise in infections.
"This enabled B4SA and other entities sourcing PPE on behalf of the country to secure the emergency stock needed; however, the task is far from over. We thank all our donors, partners, suppliers and volunteers for their ongoing and profoundly valuable commitment to helping ensure that our frontline doctors, nurses and community healthcare workers have access to the necessary quality PPE needed in the fight against the virus."
The pandemic has exposed the global risk of an over-reliance on single markets for the supply of PPE. South Africa, as a historic net importer of PPE, is no different.
At the onset of the pandemic, PPE represented less than 2% of the overall medical equipment sales in the country, with surgical gloves making up the vast majority of this. To compound this, South Africa, like much of the world, had limited internal manufacturing and supply capacity and capability to deliver the vast quantities of PPE needed in the country.
Interested suppliers can register on B4SA's procurement portal. B4SA’s PPE procurement platform is one of many initiatives that are assisting the country to procure critical PPE for frontline healthcare workers. All parties involved in B4SA operate on the premise that they do so on either a pro bono or not-for-profit basis.