"We have opened our first factory not only in Ethiopia but also in the whole of Africa. Now, the capacity of production for the COVID-19 test kits is about six million test kits per year," BGI Ethiopia Manager Chen Songheng told Xinhua.
"We would like to provide localized production in Ethiopia that can also benefit all African countries. Our aim is to make affordable artificial test kits to all African countries to help them in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic," he explained.
Earlier this month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali said the factory will also provide laboratory services for three million transit passengers at Addis Ababa International Airport.
With the COVID-19 test kit plant already receiving glowing remarks from high-level Ethiopian government officials, Chen feels confident that the initiative will diversify its engagements in the post-COVID-19 era.
"After the COVID-19 pandemic disappears, we will focus on the artificial test kits production to provide products for the likes of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and dengue fever," Chen pointed out.
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Ethiopian staff at the firm say they have been gaining knowledge and experience through their employment. Hussein Mohammed, a research and development engineer, said his country lacks sufficient medical expertise relating to COVID-19, which the new factory will provide.
Mohammed returned to Ethiopia after two years of study in China. His last six months in Wuhan had coincided with the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan city.
"The Chinese government played a great role in protecting us during the pandemic. They were providing free meals for us when we stayed more than six months indoor," Mohammed said.
The BGI Ethiopia COVID-19 test kit factory is expected to help save much-needed foreign currency that the Ethiopian government spends towards importing test kits.
The importation of a big number of COVID-19 test kits from abroad has been also causing financial and logistical challenges to Ethiopia, which has so far confirmed 69,709 COVID-19 cases and 1,108 COVID-19 related deaths.