Pretoria pair could score China deal

David Molosankwe, left, and Jordean Eksteen are the co-founders of Universal Safety Products./ ANTONIO MUCHAVE
David Molosankwe, left, and Jordean Eksteen are the co-founders of Universal Safety Products./ ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Two young Pretoria entrepreneurs who make face masks and donated 30,000 of them to China to aid in the battle against the coronavirus have scored a major deal with the Chinese government.

Jordean Eksteen and David Molosankwe, who established Universal Safety Products in 2018 to manufacture high-end dust masks, say the Chinese government has now promised to buy their products as the country battles the spread of the virus that has killed hundreds to date.

Eksteen and Molosankwe established their company, based in Laudium in Pretoria two years ago and now they employ 60 youth from the nearby townships.

Their masks were specifically designed for different work environments on the African continent.

The duo said they used to produce safety protective wear such as overalls, boots, hard hats and gloves for years but their business was not growing at the pace they wanted.

Eksteen said they conducted research and partnered with a German company that designs filtering media to produce dust masks for African conditions.

"The difference with us is that we manufacture for the continent. All our competitors manufacture for the European needs, faces and conditions. The product then gets dumped in the African market. Our focus is completely different. We focus on manufacturing for the different African needs," Eksteen said.

The products, he said, are designed for mining, construction, petrochemical environments, welding, farming and normal household use.

The company is currently developing another specialist dust mask which is specifically designed for tuberculosis.

Their plant in Centurion produces between one million and 1.3 million units a month. It operates 24 hours a day, in shifts, to meet the growing demand.

"We are increasing our production come end of this month. We will be bringing new machines which will push our production to 2.5 million units a month," Eksteen said.

He added that the decision to help in the Chinese coronavirus crisis was voluntary.

"We saw the problem with the coronavirus. We could see the need for dusk masks in China. We also have relationships with China - some of our suppliers are based in China. They also told us of the need for dusk masks in China. We felt that it is important for us as Africans to provide aid. We are normally the ones that are receiving aid all the time," he said.

Their masks have a one-way valve which allows for carbon dioxide to leave, bringing more comfort to the user.

The company also exports its products to the rest of Southern Africa, East and West Africa.

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