Panel Member Strive Masiyiwa mobilises resources against Ebola

This message was written by Panel member Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Chairman of Econet Wireless.

I wanted to share with you some important developments involving the work of businesses in Africa to help tackle the Ebola crisis.

About six weeks ago, I was approached by the Chair of the African Union, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to help lead an effort to mobilise resources on Ebola. Dr Zuma – herself a medical doctor  – shared with me the unique mandate that the AU has to draw on military personnel from African countries, in this case their military medical corps. Every African country has an army, and every army has a trained, dedicated medical corps with nurses and doctors, sometimes better equipped than the local civilian facilities (such is the reality on the continent).  In many ways, these individuals are among the most suited for dealing with the Ebola response.

The AU already has more than 100 health workers on the ground in these countries. To date, several African countries have pledged over 2,800 trained health workers to support the efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The challenge has been finding resources to scale up the training, equipping and deployment of health workers.

I’m pleased to share that at an historic gathering held in Addis Ababa on November 8, 2014, business leaders and businesses in Africa together raised $28.5M as part of the first wave of pledges to support an African medical corps. The #UnitedAgainstEbola Fund has now secured pledges over $32.6M, with additional commitments expected over the next few days. Africa’s leading businesses and business people, like MTN and Aliko Dangote, have contributed, along with international companies such as GE, Standard Chartered Bank, Coca Cola, Vitol Group and Vivo Energy to name a few.

As serving military officers, these African health workers will continue to be paid their normal salaries. And so, all the money raised will be used to meet the cost of transporting, training and equipping the health workers.

The African Development Bank has been appointed as the Trustee of a special fund, which will receive the donations, and make disbursement on the instructions of a special board of trustees, which will comprise senior leaders such as Phutuma Nhleko (chair of MTN) and Gill Marcus (former governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa).

This is an African conceived and African-led initiative, which has been welcomed by the other major donors and international institutions involved in the global fight against the epidemic. The first tranche of 1,000 African health workers will begin to be deployed on a rolling basis in December.

As part of the fundraising initiatives, mobile network operators that were present in Addis Ababa (including Vodafone, Orange, Milicom, Econet Wireless and Bharti of India) have also developed an interesting proposal, which has now caught the attention of operators outside Africa. The operators will set up a special number that subscribers can text to donate as part of a #UnitedAgainstEbola campaign. The initiative, which will be promoted globally by celebrities, will give ordinary people an opportunity to contribute.

The Ebola pandemic has now claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people, with over 13,700 infected. It is a pressing humanitarian emergency and, unless we take the fight to the source, it will spread further across Africa and globally.

Please note that this is not a solicitation for donations, but aimed at informing you all since this has been in the media recently.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of these developments.