Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Paul Pogba mobilise against coronavirus in Africa

By Marième Soumaré

Posted on Wednesday, 25 March 2020 10:56
Nigeria Virus Outbreak
People walk inside the Yaba Mainland hospital compound in Lagos Nigeria Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba)

Ethiopia received its first shipment of supplies from Jack Ma,  founder of the Chinese e-commerce empire Alibaba,  which included protective gear and test kits, for distribution across the continent.

China’s mass deployment of medical aid to fight the coronavirus reached Africa on Sunday, due to efforts by billionaire Jack Ma.

Several other personalities have also mobilized to help countries affected by COVID-19.

Ethiopia received 5.4 million face masks, more than 1 million testing kits, 40,000 items of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of face shields, China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Jack Ma’s foundation said in a statement.

More medical supplies are expected over the next few weeks.

Already, the supplies have been shipped off, such as to Zimbabwe, where 20,000 kits, 100,00 face masks and 1,000 protective clothing was received by the Chinese Embassy.

Faced with the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, will Africa be able to cope?

“The world cannot bear the disastrous consequences of an epidemic of COVID-19 in Africa,” declared Ma.

Earlier on, the head of the e-commerce empire said his foundation and the Alibaba brand would support the health systems of countries across the African continent.

Following news on 11 March by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the spead had reached a pandemic level,  many African countries since then have strengthened their protective measures (closing schools, banning public gatherings, suspending air links, etc.).

But concerns remain about the ability of health systems to cope with a spread of the disease at levels similar to scale seen in Asia and Europe.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: “We’ve gone from looming threat to looming disaster”

6 million protective masks

“We can take precautions now and prepare in advance, so that Africa can benefit from the experience and lessons of other countries that have been hit hard by the virus,” Ma added in his statement.

Online training for health professionals should also be introduced noted the billionaire.

Following shipment of material to Ethiopia, President Abiy Ahmed said he would oversee the logistics and the redistribution of the materials across Africa.

READ MORE: East Africa’s battle with Coronavirus


Elsewhere on the continent, personalities and private companies are mobilizing to support states facing the spread of coronavirus.

In Morocco, the Bank of Africa and Afriquia announced they would make a donation of over one hundred million USD each to the Coronavirus Pandemic Management Fund created last week by King Mohammed VI.

French footballer Paul Pogba of Guinean origin (Manchester United) nnounced he was going to offer 30,000 euros via a collection of donations in connection with UNICEF to help in the fight against the virus. “The impact of a large-scale epidemic can be enormous,” he warned at the time.

And in South Africa, following news of a 21-day lockdown, the government established a Solidarity Fund to which the Oppenheimer and Rupert families – considered the richest in the country – have each pledged $57m to cushion the financial blow to businesses and employees.

READ MORE: South Africa in lockdown as Coronavirus cases spike

Bottom line

With more than 417 confirmed cases and more than half of the continent’s countries now affected, will this expression of solidarity be able to alleviate the shortage of medical equipment and services feared by some experts?

On 22 February, the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed doubts about the ability of countries on the continent to cope with the epidemic and spoke of “precarious” health systems.

He called on the countries of the African Union to “join forces to be more aggressive” in the fight against COVID-19.

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