On 27 June 2020 MarketWatch reported that it is anticipated that the global market for disposable face masks could be worth GHC23.81 billion by 2027.
On 30 June, Goldman Sachs released an extensive economic analysis of why wearing a mask is a must. By studying the link between coronavirus infections and mask mandates in US states and overseas, the reputable global investment bank estimated a national directive could cut the daily growth rate of confirmed cases by 1 percentage point to just 0.6%.
The reduction, Goldman Sachs said, could prevent the need for lockdowns which could wipe 5% off US gross domestic product. The implications of not wearing a mask and its associated health and socio-economic consequences are no different in emerging and developing economies. The unfortunate coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and associated COVID-19 pandemic have however resulted in the emergence of a face protection mask (FPM) industry.
In Africa, the rapidly evolving sector could contribute approximately US$1.5 billion annually to the continent’s economy. This is according to a supply chain and industrialisation expert, Professor Douglas Boateng.
“This high demand during these unprecedented times is largely a result of the growing need for personal protective equipment (PPE), spurred on by the global coronavirus pandemic as well as the latest mandate by governments regarding the use of face protection masks at all times, especially in public places,” Boateng said.
The US presidential advisors Dr Anthony Fauchi and Dr Deborah Birx, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, leading scientists including University of California San Francisco Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics George Rutherford, Ghana’s presidential advisor on health Dr Nsiah Asare and Harvard Global Heath Institute’s Dr Ashish Jha continue to encourage the wearing of face masks to reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the novel coronavirus.
So do Professor Ampofo from the Noguchi Institute for Medical Research, Professor Erin Bromage of the University of Massachusetts, George Washington University’s Professor Jonathan Renier as well as Professor Stephen H Powis, national medical director in England for the National Health Service, the US Centers for Disease Control and world leaders from President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Goldman Sachs reports that many European countries now have mask mandates. In most parts of East Asia, it is generally acceptable to wear masks when sick or during any outbreak of disease. The acceptance of masks as a means to minimise the potential spread of a disease in Africa is also rapidly changing.
According to Professor Boateng, widening demand for quality, reusable, cloth-based face protection masks (FPMs) over the next decade will open up opportunities for the local development and supply of these essential PPEs.
“Every crisis presents opportunities for visionary business and political leaders,” he said. “SARS-CoV-2 cases in Ghana and across the globe have prompted the need for an increased supply of FPMs as a means to prevent the spread and reduce the number of infections.
“This growing need to contain the virus as well as rising health awareness among Ghanaians is driving market growth in this area.”
A new report by Grand View Research showed that a global compound annual growth rate of 53% is expected over the forecast period. This prediction could have a significant impact on the opportunities that are available to the Ghanaian textile industry as well as smaller and medium-sized enterprises operating in this sector.
Enhance your production
With the FPM industry expected to more than double over the next ten years, Boateng has urged African businesses to embrace the opportunities that have emerged and lead the way in FPM production and supply in the region.
“With a share of 33.9% in 2019, the Asia-Pacific region currently dominates the disposable face mask market,” Boateng said. “The market is also controlled by a few key players. These include the likes of Uvex Safety Group, Polison Corporation, Kimberley Clark Corporation, RPB Safety llc, Mine Safety Appliances (MSA), Moldex, Uvex, KOWA and SAS Safety Corp.
“Alpha Pro Tech, 3M Company, Honeywell, Bullard, Delta Plus Group, the Gerson Company, ILC Dover, Intech Safety Private Ltd and Shigematsu Works Company Ltd [are equally big players]. Via various agents, many of these companies export their FPMs into Ghana. Ghanaian businesses should be looking to gain some of this market share.
“The latest statistics from, among others, the World Population Review put Africa’s population at 1.1 billion people. At least 50% of the population require FPMs. This means that over 550 million Africans are in need of FPMs.
“Each of these 550 million people will need at least three masks, equating to approximately 1.55 billion masks. With an average two-layered cloth-based FPM costing US$1, the market for these PPEs could reach $1.55 billion annually,” he said.
Boateng argues that enhanced FPM production and supply could not only have a direct impact on the regional textile industry, but also significant spin-offs in other areas.
“Hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created through initiatives focused on FPMs and other PPE production. Women and the youth could particularly benefit from access to jobs in the emerging sector and further opportunities for self-employment could also arise,” he said.
Reducing the spread
Commenting on the growing opportunities in this sector, the secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) area, Wamkele Mene, noted that demand for FPMs could have a significant impact on economic development and sectoral growth in the coming years.
“As more and more people become attuned to the need for FPMs, opportunities for regional production and distribution of disposable as well as reusable face masks will increase.
“The AfCFTA is in full support of the use of FPMs to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and is mindful of the impact that growth in this sector could have for region-wide job creation and economic empowerment,” Secretary General Wamkele said.
Although opportunities in the sector look promising, Boateng warned that the medium- to long-term economic sustainability of the FPM industry will depend on African government support and policy development.
“There must be a strategy and implementation plan for the entire supply chain,” he concluded. “AfCFTA and African, governments must initially protect the sector to ensure there is no dumping and price undercutting by suppliers from outside the continent.
“Through innovative subsidies, there could even be guaranteed off-takes for schools and universities, among others,” he said.
Professor Douglas Boateng