Fingers fly as they sew up the mosquito nets

Last Wednesday we went to Arusha to visit A to Z, a local textile factory that makes Olyset mosquito nets.  30,000,000 nets per year.  So many things about this company impressed me, I’d like to share the top three.

  1. The Olyset nets are African made with Japanese technology.  Sumitomo Chemical is committed to the idea that business should benefit society.  Malaria is a large problem in Africa.  So is unemployment.  The nets are mostly bought by non-governmental organizations (NGO) and relief agencies that distribute the nets freely throughout malaria-proned regions.  The best way to not get sick with malaria is to not get bitten in the first place, and mosquito nets that contain insecticide are an easy and cost-effective method.  In addition, A to Z employs 7000 people locally, 90% of whom are women.  For a continent whose natural resources are generally exported abroad to be processed and then imported to be sold, home-grown manufacturing is a niche that needs to be developed.
  2. Sumitomo Chemical and A to Z take good care of their employees.  There is housing, daycare (!‬), a hair parlor, and a training center available.  The factory is looking for other ventures so that when net production decreases, the 7000 workers will still have a job.
  3. The manufacturing looked like a dance.  We saw the nets being made from pellet to palette, and the workers were highly trained, moving quickly and fluidly like a well-oiled machine.  I wish I had taken video–the first round of quality control was a ballet.

I walked away from this factory with hope.  Hope for the reduction of malaria in Africa, hope for the development of sustainable industry in Tanzania, and hope for a model of business that makes their workers a priority.