Addis Ababa, March 17 (IANS) After sending medical supplies to the US and promising to distribute face masks in coronavirus-battered Europe, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has announced he would donate thousands of testing kits, masks and protective suits to each African country to help the fight against the killer disease.
“Africa can be one step ahead of the coronavirus. To each of the 54 African countries, we will donate 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical use protective suits and face shields…” he said in a tweet.
The Chinese billionaire said that the supplies for Africa, totalling 1.1 million testing kits, six million masks and 60, medical use protective suits and face shields, would be delivered to Ethiopia's capital, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed would oversee their distribution across the continent.
In a statement attached to the tweet, he said: “We cannot ignore the potential risk to Africa and assume the continent of 1.3 billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. The world cannot afford the unthinkable consequences of a Covid-19 pandemic in Africa….”
“As members of the global community, it will be irresponsible of us to sit on the fence, panic, ignore facts, or fail to act. We need to take action now.”
Confirming the news, Ahmed expressed “great appreciation” at Ma's gesture.
Ma said his Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation would also provide online material for coronavirus clinical treatment to medical institutions on the continent, as Africa “can benefit from the experience and lessons of other countries that were earlier hit hard by the virus”.
There has been a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Africa in recent days, although they are still fewer than in most other continents.
Strict measures have been ordered – including travel restrictions and the closure of schools – in South Africa and Kenya among others.
There are concerns that the continent's weak health systems may be unable to cope with a large outbreak.