China's biotech giant BGI opens COVID-19 test kit plant in Ethiopia

Chen Songheng, General Manager of BGI Ethiopia, a subsidiary company of China's biotech giant, BGI Genomics Co., Ltd., is feeling optimistic about Ethiopia's anti-COVID-19 fight.

Chen administers the Chinese company's first-ever plant in Africa, a COVID-19 test kit factory located on the outskirts of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

"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," Chen told Xinhua on Tuesday.

"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," Chen said.

Chen also applauded the Ethiopian government's high-level support to the new COVID-19 test kit factory, showcased with the inauguration of the factory by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on September 13.

"We appreciate the support from the Ethiopian government. With the Ethiopian government alongside us, we feel a very strong confidence in the fight against COVID-19," said Chen.

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.

Experts work at the BGI Ethiopia COVID-19 test kit factory in the Bole Lemi industrial park on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on Sept. 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Shoubao)

"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 told Xinhua.

Ethiopian staff at the firm say they have been gaining knowledge and experience through their employment.

Ethiopian employee Hussein Mohammed, a Research and Development Engineer at the BGI Ethiopia plant, said the East African country lacks sufficient medical expertise relating to COVID-19, which the new factory will provide.

"We don't have much professional expertise on COVID-19, so my long-term aim is working with BGI Ethiopia and making myself better than I am now," Mohammed told Xinhua.

"As an Ethiopian, it's a big honor to work with BGI Ethiopia. Hopefully, it will give me a wonderful experience in the future and I will share my experience with fellow local employees," Mohammed said.

Mohammed's experience with China's successful fight against the COVID-19 pandemic extends to his time as a student in Wuhan city where he firsthand witnessed China's successful anti-COVID-19 efforts.

Mohammed returned to Ethiopia in June after two years of study in Wuhan city. His last six months in Wuhan had coincided with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the city and later the successful control of the disease.

"The Chinese government played a great role in protecting us during the COVID-19 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, located inside the Bole Lemi industrial park on the outskirts of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, 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.

Speaking at the COVID-19 test kit factory inauguration event earlier this month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali said the factory's inauguration came at a critical juncture in the country's fight against the pandemic.

"The commencement of COVID-19 test kits production will boost the testing capacity of Ethiopia and other African countries," Ahmed had said.

"The factory will additionally provide commercial laboratory services for a total of three million transit passengers at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport," said the Ethiopian premier.



Editor: Lan Suying