The US$25 million pharmaceutical warehouse being built through a grant by the Government of China, is touches away from finishing and handover to Zimbabwe in May.
The humongous structure, covering an area of 43 000 square metres, of which 13 700 square metres carry the buildings, is expected to help stabilise medical and pharmaceutical supplies in the country.
It is a boost for Harare, which last year promulgated a new pharmaceutical policy strategy aimed at locally producing more medicines.
The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy In Zimbabwe 2021-2025, launched also seeks to double Zimbabwe’s production of essential drugs to 60 percent of domestic needs.
Currently, Zimbabwe imports nearly 90 percent of its drugs and other pharmaceutical products.
The storage facility, which comprises two main wings – one for the generic and cold storage and another for explosive and volatile goods – is going to come in handy.
During an extensive tour of the site last Friday by Review & Mail, project managers showed off various facets and functions of the building, built with Chinese finesse and dilligence despite delays occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The facility is now being fitted with pallet racks, while basically all other fixtures, including fire-proofing and security surveillance have been installed.
Outside, landscaping work is being finalised to give a lush green ambience around the building, located near Harare Central Hospital and overlooking the heavy industrial areas.
With the majority of works done, the place has a warm serenity, given its sprawling compound, clean environs and the upcoming greenery.
It is a sharp contrast to the turmoil that is businesses outside.
Inside the warehouse, the workmanship is evident and everything is calibrated to function well.
“This warehouse has the capacity to hold 10 000 pallets of medicines,” Wan Heshong, the project manager explains.
“It has two cold storage rooms with an area of about 500 square metres.
“The equipment is from China. It has a cooling temperature of 2 degrees celsius to 8 degrees celsius. It will meet the storage requirements of Covid-19 vaccines,” Wan explains.
Inside the main storage area, a neat tapestry of metal racks has been set up in one area while more work continues to be done inside with workmen carrying the body frames that should be breathed life into in a matter of weeks from now.
Safety and security
The facility is equipped with sophisticated security and safety systems.
It has 15 cameras inside and 13 outside, covering every angle of the facility, inside and outside.
The cameras are monitored from a security room in one wing of the main warehouse.
This feature will likely prevent pilferage of stock when it becomes functional.
There is also fire proofing and alarms, which help warn of the hazard or fight the danger when fire breaks out. On the Western side, Warehouse 2, a smaller facility, is to be used to store dangerous, explosive or unstable elements.
It is in itself equipped with sophisticated security mechanisms.
“Warehouse Number Two is an anti-explosive warehouse. It has an anti-explosive detector, and once it senses any explosive gases it will start the fan and expel.
the dangerous gases. It will reduce the danger,” explains Xu Jie, the chief engineer.
Inside, all components are proofed and hardened against explosions.
The floor of the building is smooth and specially made not to ignite a spark on friction or hard impact.
The construction of the warehouse created employment for local workers, who form the majority of the workforce. Five engineers, 30 experts came from China.
There were some delays in securing the travels of some of the experts from China during the global lockdowns.
This also affected shipment of some materials that were to be used here.
Specialist material imported from China constitutes about 40 percent of the materials while 60 percent were procured locally.
Currently, there are 100 workers, while at peak the project employed 150 workers at any time.
Most of them were semi- and unskilled and got training from the contractor.
“These workers will now have more productive lives from the skills and experience that they gained here,” Wan said.
On March 31, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun, visited the project and was happy about its progress.
“Pleased to visit the China Aid Zimbabwe National Pharmaceutical Warehouse today. It is nearing completion and will be handed over to Zimbabwe soon,” he wrote on Twitter. The project managers indicated that the handover to the Government of ZImbabwe will likely be in May this year.
“The project will help Zimbabwe meet the international standards to efficiently store medicines.”