A highly coordinated effort to deliver thousands of litres of hand sanitiser to healthcare facilities and areas in need across South Africa has allowed integrated chemicals and energy company Sasol to not only provide much-needed protection against contamination but also helped create jobs through KSM Chemical Solutions, the company tasked to manufacture the vital product. Sasol intentionally partnered with KSM as it is committed to work with small businesses as part of its commitment to develop SMEs in the fence-line communities and as part of its inclusive business approach.
Since partnering with the petrochemical giant Sasol to produce laboratory tested alcohol-based sanitiser the Sasolburg-based KSM Chemicals company, has been able to ramp up its production up to 5,000 litres of sanitiser a day within its first week of production. This has since increased production to the current level of 10,000 litres a day.
To date, KSM has produced half a million litres of hand sanitiser, which has been distributed to NGOs such as Gift of the Givers Charities Aid Foundation and to hospitals in Gauteng among them Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and Leratong Hospital. The latter was in partnership with Anglo Ashanti, the Imperial Group, and Sibanye Gold.
Further shipments were delivered to the Gauteng Department of Health to distribute to its clinics and hospitals around the province, as well to Mozambique where Sasol has operations.
“This being a first for Sasol and KSM, we had a lot of learnings from the process as we had to ensure that the hand sanitiser is produced according to the World Health Organisation’s standards and guidelines and that KSM’s manufacturing process was up to the required standard,” says Vongani Mbatha, Sales Manager at Sasol Base Chemicals.
While Sasol’s Research and Technology divisions in Secunda and Sasolburg have both produced hand sanitiser liquid for Sasol’s internal use and supplying Clinics in fenceline communities, KSM has produced the bulk of the product. This has ensured the constant supply to communities in greatest need since March when the small company was appointed as an official manufacturer on Sasol’s supplier database. Sasol supplies KSM with a high purity ethanol blend, which the smaller chemical maker turns into high grade sanitiser. As part of continued development and capacity building, Sasol ESD has appointed a company to support and enable KSM with ethanol management skills, which is a step further to them being industry matter experts in specialised chemicals.
KSM was established in 2015 by its founders Kelvin and Selina Jacobs and was incubated at the Sasol Business Incubation facility in Sasolburg for a year.
The company began processing and recycling used oil from local McDonald’s franchises to make biodiesel and produced cleaning products for Sasol’s plant. The business grew to five employees just prior to the lockdown but was forced to close its doors along with hundreds of thousands of other businesses around the country.
“Biodiesel was the bulk of our business and with McDonald’s being closed, we could not continue running,” Kelvin says. “The lockdown, however, was a blessing in disguise because we have been working 10-to-12-hour days throughout and our business has grown to seven people, with more to come”.
“In April alone, we produced over 100 000 litres of sanitiser, some of which we delivered to our own clients directly, along with what we produced for Sasol. We have smaller shipments we sent as far as the Western Cape and we are constantly inundated with requests for products from clients all over the country,” he adds.
As the country steps down its lockdown levels, including the resumption of schools, houses of worship and other mass gatherings, hand sanitiser will be an integral part of South African daily life. In the coming weeks, the company will deliver additional loads of hand sanitiser to the City of Johannesburg, as well as to the Department of Education in anticipation of the reopening of schools and the additional hygiene protocols that will be required.
“I believe that we are in a position to grow even further than the 15 000 litres a day, over the coming months,” Kelvin says. “While new entrants may want to make their own blends of homemade sanitiser, they will find a strict requirement down the line, a process which we have already gone through, and we can now supply to the broader South African market.”