R50m centre a boost for business

Pretoria – Business owner Makekele Somo is already benefiting from the Bio-Manufacturing Industry Development Centre, which was officially opened by Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor on Friday

The R50-million centre, the first of its kind in the country, is located at the CSIR in Pretoria.

Somo said her company, Elvema Nutrition, was previously unable to be self-sufficient: “We always had a product, but had to rely on contract manufacturing. This hampered our business immensely.

“We did not have control of our product and couldn’t deliver on time, and were only able to supply our products in small quantities.”

But Somo said things had improved since they were taken through the step-by-step processes of product development, manufacturing, regulatory pathway, packaging and costing at the centre.

“It has literally freed us up to really take the steering wheel in our business,” said Somo.

She said the company was now able to produce 750 tons of its products, which they mainly sold through off-shore and small local off-take agreements.

The company is based in Midrand and its products made in Centurion.

“We always had quality products as compared to what you see in the market, but without the necessary technology offered at the centre, we could not compete.

“At the moment, I am so confident that I go to shops and compare my product and those of bigger companies. I am happy to report that my product comes out tops,” she said.

Elvema Nutrition produces instant porridges and supplements, which are sold in numerous shops locally and at least 10 other countries on the continent. It employs 31 people.

The Bio-Manufacturing centre is a dedicated facility blending research and development knowledge with industrial and commercial expertise for business enterprises.

It is funded through the department’s R500m three-year industrial innovation partnership programme.

Pando said the centre had become a hub for small, medium and micro-enterprises involved in bio-manufacturing processes.

“The centre supports 19 enterprises, of which 16 are owned by black entrepreneurs, including 10 led by black women,” she said at the opening.

Pandor praised Somo’s business and said it should continue to work towards achieving greater economic integration and diversity of the range of goods and services that South Africa exported.

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