Why this Chinese billionaire wants to help Africa get through coronavirus

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce company Alibaba, donates millions of face masks and testing kits to each of the continent’s 54 countries

DONOR: Billionaire Jack Ma says members of the global community must act together in the face of Covid-19

JACK MA, the Chinese billionaire co-founder of online retailier Alibaba, has pledged to donate coronavirus test kits, and protective masks and suits to all countries in Africa in a bid to support their efforts to stop the spread of the virus. 

Ma said that the resources would be delivered to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. 

In a statement Ma said: “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,” Ma wrote in a post on China’s Weibo microblog site.

CRUCIAL ROLE: Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed (Pic: AP/Themba Hadebe)

“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.” 

He added that his charities,  the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation would also provide online content that would support  coronavirus clinical treatment to medical institutions on the continent.

A total of 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 medical-use protective suits and face shields will be delivered to Ethiopian’s capital, Addis Ababa

News of Ma’s donation was confirmed by Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed who will play a central role in overseeing their distribution to other countries in the continent.


Abiy said that ensuring Covid-19 preparedness in Africa is critical and also spoke of his appreciation for Ma’s partnership. 

He tweeted: “Jack Ma and I agreed this morning on ways of working together to halt the spread of Covid-19 to the continent.”

However despite the relatively low numbers of infections health experts remain concerned about the continent’s ability to deal with a large outbreak of the virus as witnessed in Europe.

Although strict measures have been ordered in countries like South Africa, Uganda Kenya, and Ghana such as travel restrictions and the closure of schools there are worries that the continent’s weak health systems may be unable to cope with a large outbreak.

According to the World Health Organisation there have been 418 cases on the continent.

Large scale outbreaks

Most of the confirmed cases involve people arriving from Europe and North America.

Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa recently said that the window of opportunity for the continent to prepare for large scale outbreaks was fast closing and that key gaps in its ability to cope remain.

Moeti said: “Every country can still change the course of this pandemic by scaling up their emergency preparedness or response,” 

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