African countries have pulled together to set up a one-stop shop to give the continent a fairer chance in the international scramble for COVID-19 test kits, protective equipment and any vaccines that emerge.
The Africa Medical Supplies Platform is to work like eBay or Amazon, unlocking access to supplies across the continent, and could save billions of dollars.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was the “silver lining” to COVID-19, and “the glue that is going to bind the continent together.”
It “will address shortages and security of supply, ensure price competitiveness and transparency in procurement, reduce logistical delays, simplify payment processes and provide a common platform where governments can access services from quality and certified suppliers,” Ramaphosa said during the digital launch.
Ramaphosa spoke in his capacity as African Union chair after tasking Zimbabwean mobile mogul and philanthropist Strive Masiyiwa to come up with solutions to the shortage of test kits.
Lockdowns are already being lifted to stimulate flagging economies even as coronavirus infections are on the rise.
COVID-19 infections were first recorded in sub-Saharan Africa in March, mostly imported from Europe and the US.
As of Friday, Africa had registered 275,327 cases and more than 7,400 deaths. South Africa alone accounted for more than a third of the recorded infections.
Masiyiwa said that, across Africa, the average number of tests per 1 million people was 1,669 because of a worldwide shortage of kits, compared with 173,029 in Iceland, 44,123 in the US and 31,592 in the UK.
“Testing and lockdown are two sides of the same coin,” Masiyiwa said.
UN Economic Commission for Africa executive secretary Vera Songwe said that lockdowns are losing the continent an estimated US$65 billion a month.
“If we can use a third of this amount to test, we don’t have to lock down. This platform could save us US$40 billion [in losses],” she said.
The platform is set to be run as a non-profit by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Ethiopia and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) in Egypt, which is already managing a US$3.8 billion COVID-19 fund for the continent.
This fund would be used to cover freight costs so that small and remote countries, such as the Seychelles, would pay the same prices as Senegal, Masiyiwa said.
Ethiopian Airways and South African Airways are to help with shipments to hubs like Addis Ababa and Johannesburg so that volumes can be leveraged to lower costs, Masiyiwa said.
While preference would be given to continental suppliers, such as South African company Invicta, which has pledged to supply 10,000 inexpensive ventilators, or Senegal’s US$1 rapid test kits, supplies would also be shipped from countries like China.
“What we do is demonstrate the power of volume, which we as Africa always have known we can unleash,” Masiyiwa said.
Governments experiencing financial difficulties would be able to open credit lines with Afreximbank, while potential international debt forgiveness could go some way toward paying for supplies.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory