We are all familiar with the near trite expression that one must dare to conquer. The concept explains the courageous inroad VKS, a giant construction firm which debuted in Nigeria 3 years ago but which today has through its subsidiary Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited veered into syringe manufacturing to meet the medical needs of sub-Sahara Africa even in the face of what has been acknowledged as global economic recession. In the words of the Managing Director of VKS, Mr. Onur Kumral, “but for our company, VKS, we have to grow. We do not mourn about setbacks, we make steps to correct and prevent setbacks”. It is this type of daring that has made VKS different.
It is no longer news that by the turn of 2015, many businesses, especially of foreign origin had closed shop and left Nigeria. The fiscal policies which gave rise to volatile foreign exchange rates impinged severely on procurement of inputs by manufacturing concerns. Added to this mix was fear which bordered on the repatriation of funds by investors to their home country. What looked to them like impending doom arising from perceived rigid policies sent foreign investors into flight. But while they were going, VKS was considering how to make the best use of what many saw as a bad situation. It is a case of where others saw doom, VKS saw opportunities.
That show of courage and foresight is today the magnificent edifice sitting on 8,000 square metres land space as a factory and housing the first syringe manufacturing company in Sub-Sahara Africa located in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. According to Kumral, “the year 2017 is the year we have chosen to bring industries to Nigeria. These we have started with Akwa Ibom State as our first destination”. On why they have chosen Akwa Ibom, the Managing Director maintained that “development comes by policies”, pointing out that Governor Udom Emmanuel has good policies for the sustainable development of the State. Mr. Onur Kumral stated that for the year 2017, Udom’s goals can be compared to United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals despite the fact that it came long before that of United Nations. The MD said that it is that line of thinking that encouraged the siting of Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited in the State.
VKS, the parent company to Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited in its business decisions acts like a global citizen. According to the Turkish born MD, the company is not just contented with growing in construction. Hear him, “we want to go to other sectors and start taking action against recession. We always choose an enemy to win, and this year, our enemy is the recession. And we will win against the recession”. It is elementary economics to know that recession in Nigeria is occasioned by over-dependence on foreign items which correspondingly depletes our foreign exchange that comes only from oil. Of course, such dependence has indisputably blighted the nation’s economy. For VKS, stemming the tide of that foreign exchange depletion through the establishment of a factory that produces an item that forms part of the source of the loss is a task that must be done. In the face of the fact that the nation’s current population needs about 4 billion syringes annually, cutting such huge cost of foreign exchange would certainly help grow the economy of the country as such, cost would be saved to address other needs. Mr. Kumral posited that one of the ways to arrest the current economic drift is to produce in Nigeria to save foreign exchange.
The Syringe Manufacturing Company may not be the only investment VKS wants to establish in Nigeria and indeed, Akwa Ibom State. The Managing Director stated that the company intends to bring more investments into the country. Hear him: “we intend to bring more investments into the country. Our confidence is in Udom Emmanuel and we are very attracted to his vision”. As it is often said, it is the deep that calls to the deep. The business insight of VKS has encountered the insightful polices of the Udom Emmanuel administration thus necessitating a collaboration that is set to benefit Akwa Ibom people in particular and Nigerians in general.
Even though Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited is 100% privately owned, with government’s contribution limited to the provision of land and security, Kumral lauded the Udom Emmanuel administration for the support the company has enjoyed. He said that they were inspired by the governor’s track record in financial institutions and the assurances he gave them. He lamented that the African continent is blessed with a lot of wealthy people who have unfortunately failed to see the huge potentials embedded in the continent. On how he intends to source for raw materials and manpower, the Turkish born business magnate said that the raw materials are produced by Petrochemical Companies in the country. For manpower, he said, “we believe in local manpower, we do not believe in bringing expatriates”. It must be mentioned that the company recently sent 12 Nigerians to Turkey for training on injection moulding machines, maintenance of moulds and quality control. The selected Nigerians are strictly graduates of mechanical and electrical engineering. Plans are also afoot to send more Nigerians for training especially in the area of safety.
The company which also hinted that it would commence syringe production in the State in August intends to kick start with a production capacity of between 350 to 400 million syringes annually. It also plans to expand its production capacity to about 1 billion syringes annually by 2018. Upon this attainment, Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited would overtake the only syringe manufacturing company in Africa which is in South Africa. That company has a production capacity of only 93 million syringes annually. With such development, Akwa Ibom State would be on the medical equipment manufacturing map as the largest syringe manufacturing company in Africa. Thanks to daring on the part of VKS and integrity on the part Governor Udom Emmanuel.
What role would Akwa Ibom people play in such historic attainment? Apart from coming into social reckoning through the feat, one cannot lose sight of the myriad of business opportunities that the commencement of manufacturing activities at Jubilee Syringe Factory would create. VKS, the parent company has not left anyone in doubt as to its corporate social responsibility and its willingness to give Nigerians due stake in their ventures. Its employment history stands out impressively. In 2015, VKS grew and gave employment to 250 Nigerians. In 2016, it upped the ante to 650. The Managing Director has pledged that the target of the company is to give jobs to 2,000 Nigerians. At Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited, it is envisaged that between 170 to 200 persons would be engaged at commencement of business with room for more people to join upon expansion. Other ancillary activities with the attendant economy boom which always predictably sequel developments of that like would add up to the prosperity ratio that the people would enjoy.
VKS through its subsidiary, Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing has demonstrated the power of daring. It is stomping where angels once feared to tread. Now that Jubilee Syringe has led the way, it is a clarion call to other foreign investors that Nigeria still beckons as the biggest and most viable market in Africa. But Akwa Ibom stands out in bold uniqueness as the most peaceful. As Kumral himself noted: “the state is the safest in the country in terms of security”. It is common knowledge that no investor would risk his investment in an unsafe environment. And so welcome to a state headed by a visionary governor who understands the fundamentals, dynamics and benefits of foreign investments and is willing to encourage more investors. But most importantly welcome to where your investments would be secured and protected.
Joe Iniodu – public affairs analyst