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Food processing


Kenya has a large agro-processing industry, reflecting the importance of the agricultural sector in the Kenyan economy. The majority of the pioneering industries during the colonial period were agro-based. A wide spectrum of agro-industries exists today, ranging from processing staple food and fruits, to beverage and tobacco production for both the domestic and foreign markets. Food processing is thus one of the key activities in Kenya's agro-processing industry.

History of firms in the sample

Origins, ownership and structure

Two large firms, one processing pineapple and the other producing a wide range of household products using agricultural raw materials, were studied. Pineapple canning and the production of pineapple juice concentrates is one of the most successful agro-processing industries in Kenya today. It is dominated by one multinational company, Del Monte (Kenya) Ltd. which is owned by the US-based Delmonte Foods International. Almost all of its canned pineapples and juice concentrates are exported.

Del Monte, the only pineapple processing firm in Kenya, started operation in 1965 when it took over from a local company, Kenya Canners Ltd. which had been in existence since 1948. The company achieved a remarkable growth in export sales between 1970 and 1990 (see Table 10.1).

The second firm studied in the agro-processing sector is East Africa Industries (EAI). EAI was established by the British colonial government in 1943 in Nairobi to achieve a specific wartime objective, i.e. provide food products and other provisions for a large number of soldiers and recruits during the Second World War. The company was consequently expected to reduce imports of nonmilitary requirements and ensure regular supplies. The firm, then under the Kenya Industrial Management Board (KIMBO), manufactured soap and bricks.

Due to the inability of the British government to manage the firm adequately, Unilever joined in partnership with the colonial government in 1956. In 1978 the Kenyan government, through the ICDC, bought 34 per cent of the shares, with Unilever retaining 66 per cent. By the early 1960s, EAl's focus had shifted to the manufacture of household goods for the needs of the indigenous people, many of whom had acquired a taste for a wide range of products. The firm's labour force grew rapidly from 155 in 1965 to over 3 500 workers (including casuals) by 1992 (Table 10.2).

Unilever, with its wide and successful international experience and connections, provided EAl's management training and technology requirements. The Unilever Conglomerate has 529 companies world-wide, from which it draws management and technological expertise. EAI staff are frequently sent for training at Unilever establishments outside Kenya.

Production structure

Del Monte has constructed a large cannery plant backed by workshops, training facilities and a large plantation at Thika, near Nairobi. The factory has a large electronic 'ginaca' machine which processes pineapples efficiently. It has been able to achieve close to 100 per cent usage of the pineapples: the output is 22 per cent solid pineapple, 34 per cent juice concentrates, 21 per cent mill juice sugar and 22 per cent cattle feed. Del Monte produces high-quality pineapple products destined primarily for the European market. The firm's success in the export market can be attributed to processing efficiency, strict quality control on raw materials and final products, a disciplined workforce and a well-designed international marketing network and strategy.

Table 10.1 Production and export trends for Del Monte

  1970 1980 1985 1990
Employment (numbers) 691 4 950 6 000 6 052
Production (000 tonnes) 9.37 30.50 53.320 72.48
Export sales:        
Canned pineapple (000 tonnes) 6.22 24.51 44.47 59.43
Juice concentrate (000 tonnes) 2.70 4.54 6.31 9.60
Labour costs (% of total output) 10.4 9.3 8.5 7.1

Table 10.2 Structure of employment for EAI

Employment 1970 1980 1985 1990 1992
Permanent (numbers) 961 956 1 260 1 260 1 600
Casuals (numbers) 900 1 300 1 630 1 950 1 944

EAI produces four main product ranges; namely body care, edible oils and drinks, detergents and industrial products. The body care products include jellies, body cream, lotion, body sprays and toothpaste's. Edible oils include cooking fats, oils and margarines. EAI also produces a range of fruit juices, spices and tomato sauces. The soap and detergent products include beauty soaps, general purpose bar soaps, detergent powder and non-soapy detergents.

External factors affecting export growth

Raw material problems

Del Monte's main raw materials are locally available and include fresh pineapples, sugar and water. The firm relies on its 10 000 acre pineapple plantation at Thika, about 50 km from Nairobi. The pineapple is a perennial plant which yields its first fruit 20 months after planting. Once planted, a pineapple plant can go on producing fruit for several years but the quality and size of the 'ratoons' deteriorate over time. Del Monte harvests only the first ratoon to avoid poor quality. The offcuts obtained during harvesting are then replanted. Because of the scanty rainfall in the area, Del Monte irrigates the crop to stabilize production. The firm relies heavily on imported fertilizers, fumigants, pesticides and hormones to achieve high yields and faster maturation.

Some pineapple production activities are highly mechanized. The heavy investment in farm machinery and the cannery requires an expansion of the pineapple plantation. However, acquisition of more land has become a critical problem in the firm's attempts to expand at its current location, due to rising population density and the attachment of local people to their plots. Further export expansion will thus depend on the company's ability to acquire more land.

EAI, on the other hand, relies heavily on imported inputs. In its early years of operation, the company imported cotton oil seed from Uganda for the manufacture of cooking fats. Other edible oils raw materials were available in East Africa: coconut oils from Tanzania, palm oil from Zaire' groundnuts from Tanzania and tallow and sesame oil in Kenya and Tanzania. However, these are not produced in large quantities and it was uneconomical for EAI to acquire them from these sources. During this period, EAI had a storage capacity of just 800 tonnes. By 1992, the company had expanded tremendously hut locally available raw materials were still negligible and it had to rely on imported oils and other raw materials. In recent years, the firm has been intensifying efforts to encourage domestic production of raw materials, especially sunflowers.

Palm oil, the principal input used by EAI, is imported from Malaysia, where Unilever has substantial interests. It is used as a base in the production of most of its products. The firm also uses sunflower seeds, which are grown locally on small-scale farms. An oil crop development project jointly undertaken by EAI and the Kenyan government to supply EAI with oil-bearing seeds stalled when the Kenyan government pulled out, but there have been recent attempts to revive the project.

Exports by EAI were adversely affected in the 1990s by the emergence of competing firms, which appeared to have government support and received first priority in the allocation of foreign exchange to import raw materials. However, with the liberalization of the foreign exchange market in 1993, all firms were expected to operate on a level playing field. But EAI has not won government support for the potentially lucrative oil crops development project because some influential businessmen regarded the project as a threat to their own firms. An attempt by EAI to establish a cattle feeds production line to integrate production activities and improve the efficiency of raw material utilization was also suspended by the government after some heavy equipment had been installed. The production of cattle feeds would have adversely affected firms owned by these influential businessmen.


EAI is currently one of the most competitive firms in the East African region in the production of household consumables. Its goods, especially edible oils and detergents, are in great demand in the region. The company started exporting in 1978 when the Kenyan government permitted the export of selected items to the Eastern Africa region. One of the first major export items was soap to Uganda. However, due to acute foreign exchange shortages experienced in Kenya around 1987, export quotas were imposed on the firm as the government had insufficient hard currency to allocate to EAI to import the necessary raw materials. The government pegged exports to production levels in an attempt to ensure that the domestic market was satisfied. The quota was progressively increased from 10 per cent (within the PTA region) in 1987 to 30 per cent in 1990.

Neighbouring countries, which constituted a large part of the firm's market, were also constrained by lack of foreign exchange to pay for the goods. However, despite these obstacles, the company remains an important exporter of household consumer goods in the region (Table 10.3).

The firm's exports to PTA countries had increased considerably by 1992. The company has had a competitive edge in the PTA market especially in the export of detergents and body care products. The main PTA export markets continue to be Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi. Limited quantities of some products have been exported to some EU countries.

Unlike EAI, Del Monte's products are mainly for the European market. Less than 5 per cent of total production is marketed locally or in the PTA region. Some of the factors behind Del Monte's success in the export market are its high quality control and ability to fulfill orders on time. Production and export orders are computerized and closely monitored to ensure timely delivery. The firm's distribution system to export destinations is well organized and efficient. It took an average of five days to fulfil orders, which was highly impressive by Kenyan standards.

Table 10.3 Export trend for EAI 1981-91 (000 tonnes)

  1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
Export volume 2 350 1 760 3 950 4 000 4 980 6 140 3 800 3 850 3 970 4 210 4 020

Technology and productivity

EAI has more than 30 different products, four refineries and storage tanks in Nairobi and Mombasa. In 1989, EAI completed construction of a large, modern edible-oil refinery. The expansion and improvement consisted of a continuous deodorizing/stripping plant, pre-treatment equipment and an oil blending system. The refinery enabled the company to have a continuous process as opposed to the conventional batch type. The continuous deodorizing/stripping plant accounted for the larger part of the investment. Supply and installation of the plant was done by LURGI, a German company which is one of the world leaders in the supply of such plants. The plant has a capacity to deodorize different types of vegetable oils and utilizes a high-temperature process popularly referred to as physical refining. This type of deodorizing economizes on the use of chemicals and produces a product of consistently high quality. The by-products, mainly distilled fatty acids, are used in the production of high-quality laundry soap. The plant utilizes the latest technology and, in keeping with the high quality requirements, the process control is computerized. The EAI Unilever technological process and operations in Kenya are basically comparable to those in Europe.

Before oil is fed through the deodorizing column, it has to be pretreated to de-gum and remove colour and any traces of heavy metal ions. The second component of the modernization project performs this function and consists of a revolutionary, Unilever-patented process. EAI was among the first of the Unilever groups to acquire this system. The third component of the equipment modernization consisted of a sophisticated oil blending system which produces many blends of oil. The technology in use permits flexibility in sizes, shape and speed of packaging according to the market requirements. The computerized equipment facilitated quick adjustment to changes in consumer tastes and requirements, which has boosted the firm's competitiveness in both domestic and regional markets.

Apart from expanding capacity, this modern plant utilizes far less energy (steam and electricity) and chemicals per tonne of oil processed. Its installation, as the first plant of its kind in the country' led to faster and more efficient refining and increased capacity, at international quality standards. The technology ensures that wastage of raw materials is kept to a minimum. This was seen as a critical contributing factor in the firm's success in penetrating and maintaining its share of the regional and domestic markets.

Unilever's policy has been to remain as technologically modern as possible. This requires regular training for technical staff. Expatriates from other Unilever operations are contracted by EAI to install equipment, while Kenyan personnel are sometimes sent to other Unilever operations on 2-3 year training programmes.

At Del Monte, all the production processes have kept pace with the technological development world-wide. Emphasis is placed on quality in order to maintain export competitiveness. Quality control was maintained by ensuring fruit freshness. No time is lost between harvesting and processing and attention is given to the optimal ripening and proper sorting of fruit, the correct application of additives and preservatives and air-tight packaging. The firm has progressively improved on these aspects through training, research, supervision of labour, use of improved machines and better husbandry. Quality control begins the moment fresh fruit is delivered at the cannery for processing, which begins within six hours of picking.

Production linkages

Del Monte has developed good backward linkages with some sectors of the economy. Cans, for instance, are produced at an adjacent company (CMB Packaging), while cartons, labels, spare parts and provisions for the cannery and plantation are purchased from various domestic manufacturers. With over 5 000 employees, Del Monte is a major economic force within Thika, one of Kenya's major industrial towns. The economy of the town is closely tied to the performance of the firm.

Much of the vital machinery peculiar to the pineapple industry is made at the firm's own machine fabrication workshop. The innovative workshop produces massive 120-feet-span boom harvesters in addition to manufacturing fumigators tailored to local conditions. Some in-house modifications have also been made to mechanical slicers, crushers and sterilizers/coolers. The in-house equipment, though slightly inferior in engineering efficiency, was said to be more reliable, easily serviceable and more cost-effective. The firm maintains a second workshop for servicing its fleet of 120 vehicles and farm machinery. Among them are two 525-h.p. tractors, the largest pieces of agricultural machinery in Africa. In addition, a sugar recovery plant uses waste pineapple skins to manufacture high-grade refined sugar. The refinery provides 20 per cent of the cannery's sugar needs and has helped the company to integrate its activities.

Transportation is a key element in Del Monte's efficiency. In 1982, a container terminal was installed at the company's cannery plant site. The terminal has a capacity of filling and dispatching over 280 containers a week. Railway sidings at the terminal are in almost constant use and the Rat-bed wagons can be hooked into Mombasa-bound locomotives in less than an hour.

EAI also has an integrated production process with good forward and backward linkages. Backward linkages include economic relationships with enterprises engaged in farming, primary processing, paper, plastic, metal and chemical industries. With regard to forward linkages, the company deals with hotels, bakeries and a variety of food manufacturing industries.

Human resources and development skills

Del Monte placed great emphasis on training local employees in all relevant fields, on both the management and technical side of operations. Employees in the agricultural, canned foods processing, management, finance and accounting departments of the firm are all likely to go through the company's training department at least once in their career. The firm uses both in-house and local training institutions to train a pool of workers whom it can rely on in time of need.

The firm also works closely with the Government's Management Training and Advisory Centre, the Directorate of Industrial Training and the Kenya Polytechnic in developing its training programmes. The firm's full-time training manager organizes internal courses, which are supplemented by the on-going local management programmes. conducted by reputable local firms. At any one time, about 40 students are enrolled in trade and technical apprenticeship programmes. The company is usually able to retain about US per cent of its apprentices, with the rest being absorbed by other industries.

Every year employees are assessed for their training needs in line with their promotional expectations. On average, five members of staff are sent overseas for further training and practical experience within the Del Monte network.

These on-going training programmes have enabled Kenyans to take up senior posts. In the past two years, the number of expatriate employees has dropped from 20 to 9, all of whom held highly technical or senior management positions. This was generally seen by the firm's management as an indication of effective transfer of technology by a multinational corporation.

Between 1980 and 1990, the total labour force increased by 20 per cent, while canned pineapple production increased by 142 per cent (Table 10.1). The largest increase occurred between 1980 and 1985 and was attributed mainly to an increase in labour productivity which permitted expansion without compromising profitability. Labour costs as a proportion of total output declined from 11).4 per cent in 1970 to 7.1 per cent in 1990 (Table 10.1).

The pharmaceutical industry


Kenya has a well-developed pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing a wide range of products. Where in 1963 there were four main pharmaceutical firms in operation, the number had risen to 23 medium-and large-scale pharmaceutical firms by 1992. The main firms were Welcome Limited, Beecham of Kenya Limited and Cooper (UK), Dawa Pharmaceutical Limited (Kenya-Yugoslav), Twiga Chemicals and Sterling Health (US), Asia Pharmaceutical EA Ltd and Boots Co. Ltd (India), Mac's Pharmaceuticals, Laboratory and Allied and Ciba-Geigy (Switzerland), Apotex Incorporation, Howse and McGeorge and Phillips (the Netherlands), Harrisons and Crosfield and Bayer Chemicals (Germany) and Cosmos (Kenya). The industry is thus dominated by foreign firms which were established to tap the Kenyan and regional markets. Exports of pharmaceutical products increased rapidly after 1982 due to the greater accessibility of the Eastern and Southern African market. By the late 1980s, exports to neighbouring countries accounted for more than 51) per cent of Kenyan pharmaceutical exports, with Tanzania and Uganda alone taking 40 per cent.

Kenyan pharmaceutical exports faced stiff competition from European traders and manufacturers who had long-established contacts in the regional market. Some of the Kenyan firms, however, have been able to penetrate markets in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. The range of products manufactured by Kenyan firms includes capsules, injections, creams, syrups, suspensions, suppositories, antibiotics, analgesics, antiacids, diuretics, glycortoids, haemopoitrics, hormones, hypnotics, sedatives, tranquillizers, catero-tonics, vitamine, anti-malarials, anti-amoebics, anti-spasmodics and chemotherapeutics. However, the country still imports large amounts of these drugs. Only about 30 per cent of total annual requirements was produced locally. Capacity utilization varied widely within individual factories for particular products as well as between firms. Foreign firms' capacity utilization was about 80 per cent and 65 per cent for locally owned firms.

Although the industry relies heavily on imported raw materials for its requirements, it has substantial backward linkages. The major domestic raw materials used are sugar, starch, spirits, gum, acacia and crushed capsicum. The industries which produce these raw materials in Kenya include grain and sugar millers, CPC (K) Ltd and the Agro-Chemical and Food Company (ACFC).

History of the sample

Origins, ownership and structure

The study covered three pharmaceutical manufacturing firms: Sterling Health, an American multinational company, and Cosmos and Twiga Chemicals, which are locally incorporated.

Sterling Health is a subsidiary of the US-based Sterling Products International. The firm started business in Kenya in the early 1960s under the name Sterling Winthrop (K) Limited. Kenyans had a minority shareholding in the firm, which had two Kenyans on its board of directors. Part of a large international group with manufacturing activities in over 60 countries throughout the world, Sterling Health (K) has established itself as a market leader and has developed high-quality products to meet popular needs at affordable prices. It has been one of Kenya's leading manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals and a major supplier of ethical drugs, toiletries, household and industrial products since the early 1960s.

Cosmos Limited, on the other hand, was incorporated in Kenya in 1976 by an Asian family led by Prakash K. Patel, an experienced pharmacist and managing director of an old local pharmaceutical distributor, E.T. Monks & Co. Limited. The firm started manufacturing in 1977 on a small scale and moved cautiously in the establishment of a larger manufacturing facility and building up manpower. It later expanded its shareholding to include other Kenyan Asian entrepreneurs. By 1984, Cosmos had acquired significant experience in the pharmaceutical industry, which enabled it to undertake a major investment project. The project, which involved construction of a pharmaceutical plant, was completed in 1985. The company has a wide range of products.

The third firm, Twiga Chemical Industries Limited (Twiga), started business in Kenya in 1949 under the name EA & Cl (EA) Ltd. Which was a branch of the African Explosives and Chemical Industries of South Africa. In 1962 the company changed its name to Twiga when its shareholding was acquired by Covenant Industries (UK). Covenant was 50 per cent owned by ICI (UK), with the other half owned by Charter Consolidated. In 1978, Twiga sold 40 per cent of its equity to Kenyan shareholders, among them some of the company's management staff. The company now has two Kenyans on its Board of Directors.

Production and export history

Sterling Health's domination in the production of OTC pharmaceuticals is a result of the firm's strong research and quality control programme, backed by an aggressive marketing strategy. Sterling's laboratory and production plant is today one of the most modern in the industry. The success of the firm in the export market is attributed mainly to its strict quality control and research. All raw materials are tested thoroughly before entering the production stage. The company manufactures well over 40 products in various categories. It made a major export breakthrough in 1985 when it acquired more modern equipment in its factories, expanded its infrastructure and increased its range of products. It more than doubled exports between 1980 and 1985 (Table 10.4) with the main export items being anti-malarials and detergents. The firm also intensified its sales promotion, especially in the electronic media. The firm was able to reduce production costs considerably, which enabled it to sell a wider range of products.

Cosmos, which has a shorter history in the production and export of pharmaceuticals, has also expanded rapidly (Table 10.5). In 1985 Cosmos started production of high-quality drugs in competition with much bigger firms in the Eastern and Southern Africa market. Cosmos' entry to the highly competitive export market was made possible by the installation of an efficient modern pharmaceutical production plant and the use of experienced expatriate and local personnel. The new plant was more efficient, safer and ensured high-standard production procedures. Exports received a further stimulus in the second half of the 1980s through government incentives and the introduction of preferential trade arrangements in the Eastern and Southern African (PTA) market. Cosmos' main export destinations in the PTA market included Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Sudan. The company started production of syringes in 1990 in addition to capsules, tablets and liquid preparations.

Table 10.4 Sales and exports for Sterling Health (KSh5 million)

  1970 1980 1985 1990
Anti malarials 9.64 (2.41) 21.93 (5.92) 53.57 (16.07) 69.24 (22.85)
Worm expellants 2.26 (0.61) 4.62 (1.34) 21.59 (6.91) 26.97 (9.44)
Cough preparations 5.23 (1.15) 11.34 (2.72) 14.61 (4.09) 17.65 (5.30)
Paracetamol, painkillers 5.34 (1.55) 10.65 (3.62) 23.85 (9.78) 32.63 (13.05)
Antacids 3.28 (0.95) 5.74 (2.01) 19.57 (8.22) 20.92 (10.04)
Antiseptics, disinfectants 6.34 (1.10) 15.23 (2.87) 16.72 (4.81) 19.48 (6.77)
Detergents, toiletries 14.44 (3.90) 17.76 (6.75) 41.45 (18.24) 50.22 (24.61)
Total sales/ exports 46.54 (11.67) 87.27 (25.23) 191.36 (49.88) 237.11 (92.06)

Note: Figures for exports in parentheses

Twiga is among the oldest pharmaceutical firms in the African market. Until the early 1960s, its activities were mainly confined to importing and distributing animal health products for Cooper McDougall and Robertson in East Africa. As the chemical market expanded, the company ventured into chemical manufacturing, first for the local market, then for the East Africa market and finally, in the mid-1980s, for the PTA market. In 1960 it established an agro-chemicals plant in Nairobi and in 1961 storage facilities for imported mining explosives were constructed in Nairobi, Mombasa, Athi River and Kisumu.

Table 10.5 Production and exports for COSMOS (KShs million)

  1978 1980 1985 1990 1991
Total production 6.41 11.92 24.07 28.85 29.01
Exports 0 0 0.75 6.31 8.22

Twiga's largest line of business has been agro-chemicals, which accounts for 40 per cent of the company's annual turnover. The company makes fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. ICI's own products make up about one third of Twiga's total agro-chemical business, including locally popular products such as Glamaxone herbicides and Actellis insecticides.

Technology, productivity and human resources

Production linkages and subcontracting

Twiga represents a number of other US multinational chemical manufacturers such as Monsanto, Rohn and Haas, and Du Pont in the distribution of some of their products in the region. Monsanto's 'Round-up' herbicide has been one of the best selling products.

Twiga's second largest line of business has been in animal health: it formulates animal health and public health products for another Nairobi-based chemical/pharmaceutical firm, Wellcome Kenya Limited. This business accounts for about 30 per cent of Twiga's total turnover. The main products in this category include Delnav DFF and Armitaz cattle dipping chemicals and aerosol sprays (Doom).

The industrial chemicals division accounts for about 10 per cent of the firm's business. It imports and distributes industrial chemicals such as caustic soda and archon refrigerants from ICI Chemicals and Polymers Group. ICI products account for 40 per cent of Twiga's business in this field. In addition, the company markets soda ash for the Kenya-based Magadi Soda Company and sulphuric acid for the Thika-based Kel Chemicals. The company is also an agent for some international manufacturers of industrial chemicals. Twiga markets ICI explosives and also sells ammonium nitrate for CDF Chinie of France. Ammonium nitrate is then mixed with diesel to form an explosive which is cheaper than dry dynamite. Explosives make up about 7 per cent of the company's total business.

In addition to these lines, Twiga also markets ICI's organic products. The company distributed imported dyestuffs and textile auxiliaries for the textile industry and nitro-cellulose products for the paint industry as well as some pharmaceutical drugs, two thirds of which were manufactured by ICI companies. These are mainly cardiovascular drugs and skin ointments. The rest of the business in pharmaceuticals is basically in anti-nauseants. in which the firm represents Janssen Pharmaceutical of Belgium.

The Kenyan pharmaceutical industry has limited linkages. Most firms have their own laboratories and engineering workshops. The engineering side is, however, relatively underdeveloped, forcing many firms to import most of their spares and equipment. A variety of drug tests have to be done either in-house or by foreign pharmaceutical consultants, imposing enormous costs due to lack of economies of scale. A proposal first made in the 1960s to establish a pharmacy training institute has not been implemented. Some of the firms have had to rely on expatriate pharmaceutical engineers, who are not available locally.

Technology and productivity

Sterling Health operates in an environment of intense competition. However, it has been successful in maintaining a stable share of the local and export markets by producing cost-effective and high-quality drugs. One of the strategies of the firm has been to maintain affordable prices without compromising on product quality, so as to remain competitive in terms of prices and quality.

The firm's laboratory and production units are relatively sophisticated and efficient. Quality control is rigorous, with the firm's management maintaining strict quality control procedures. Several adaptations have been made in bottling and packaging to suit the market conditions and clientele. For example, OTC painkillers are sold in a waterproof and airtight hard casing to ensure the potency of the drug for a longer period. This has also made it difficult for competitors to mimic the drug.

Cosmos had modern equipment from the outset. The management made it a policy to maintain high production efficiency, technical competence and managerial capabilities to match those of more established pharmaceutical firms such as Dawa and Sterling Health. Cosmos appears to have the advantage of having a smaller and more manageable operation which does not suffer from low capacity utilization. It is mainly geared to the production of low-cost drugs.

The relatively new equipment was a clear advantage for Cosmos' as it has enabled the company to establish strong roots and compete successfully with the larger firms. Another advantage was its disciplined and well-trained workforce. The firm is in the process of further expanding its training department, which is perceived as a key to high productivity.

Human resources and skill development

Sterling Health has also developed a well-trained workforce. Its labour force increased from 50 in 1970 to 84 in 1975, after which it rose more rapidly to reach 246 in 1985. By 1992, the firm had over 300 employees, including 12 expatriates and 18 Kenyan professionals.

At Sterling, manufacturing is carried out to high quality control standards. Training is provided either abroad through the parent company or by expatriate consultants. Close supervision is necessary to ensure quality control but some of the managers said that it was sometimes difficult to get the right kind of supervisory talent locally. Sterling Health pays its newly recruited unionizable workers at least 65 per cent above the minimum statutory wage, as a way of providing incentives.

Cosmos increased the number of highly skilled workers, including experienced pharmacists and engineers, from 5 in 1984 to 12 in 1990. Its employees receive training locally and abroad. The firm placed great emphasis on training as one factor in achieving tight quality control on its products, which was seen as critical if the firm's drugs were to meet WHO as well as Kenya Bureau of Standards specifications.

Characteristics of demand in target markets

The directors of Cosmos are well-established pharmacists in the East African region. They described the consumer needs in the region as 'simple and straightforward drug preparations' at prices the poor could afford. Cosmos' management deprecated the marketing by some multinational companies of expensive products which in many instances did not meet the real needs of the regional (PTA) market. The sales manager, a locally trained pharmacist, argued that in most cases expensive drugs do not reach a broad spectrum of people as government hospitals cannot afford them. In most cases, the same amount of money spent on simpler formulations could achieve more dramatic and effective results. Cosmos, however, strives to achieve quality standards and rigorous specifications, knowing that good health care provision is not simply a matter of producing drugs but includes basic understanding of the economic factors which have hindered effective use and distribution of pharmaceuticals.

Twiga has over the years established itself in the PTA market as one of the leading companies in the supply of a wide range of chemicals. The company makes agro-chemicals for export to Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda. Exports, which were mainly sold by tender, accounted for about 15-20 per cent of Twiga's business in 1991.

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