African Union launches ground-breaking medical supply platform to stop COVID-19

blue picture with Covid particle in background with register now button showing
Image from Africa Medical Supplies Platform
Jean Oelwang
by Jean Oelwang
17 June 2020

President of South Africa and African Union (AU) Chairperson, Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, has launched the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, which is at the heart of a continent-wide effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic as cases continue to grow exponentially.

At an online event held on June 18, President Ramaphosa launched the new platform enabling the procurement, coordination and distribution of COVID-19 medical supplies for all African Union member states. 

President Ramaohosa said: "The continent’s response to this pandemic is testament to Africa’s resilience, to our often undervalued expertise in managing public health emergencies, and, and above all, to our unwavering quest for self-reliance."

This global pandemic needs a global collaborative response in order for humanity to end it. Sadly, in most corners of the world, rather than collaboration, there has been competition and division. Export restrictions put in place by manufacturing countries, bidding wars and price gouging have made the procurement of much-needed, life-saving medical equipment difficult for many nations. In Africa, led by an extraordinary group of leaders in the AU, they have taken a different approach, one of collaboration, not just across one country, but across an entire continent. 

The unique platform enables volume aggregation, quota management, payment facilitation, and logistics & transportation information – all ensuring equitable and efficient access to critical supplies for African governments. It will allow African governments and NGOs to easily identify available suppliers in Africa and outside the continent, and makes it possible for governments and NGOS to place their orders optimally for diagnostic test kits, clinical management and PPE equipment. 

picture showing 3 people at work stations working on medical kit wearing masks
Image from Virgin Orbit

Philanthropist and African Union COVID-19 special envoy, Strive Masiyiwa, has been working in partnership with the AU along with a brilliant team, including Janngo founder Fatoumata Ba, to launch this world-class online platform, ensuring it provides fair and cost effective access to all those requiring critical, life saving supplies.

Strive Masiyiwa said: “The Africa Medical Supply Platform is just one innovation that African countries have developed ourselves, to help mitigate the devastating impact of this pandemic threatening both the health of our people and our national economies. We are already getting requests from other parts of the world to license the AMSP concept. Africa is leading the way with this online solution to ensure all of our governments get access to PPEs and other urgent medical supplies they need, at fair prices.”

We are honoured to be part of this through the local manufacturing initiative with South African company, Invicta Holdings. This starts with 1,000 bridge ventilators, designed by engineers at Virgin Orbit who gave the designs for free. 

The partners are also in discussions with Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and NASA [all part of the Aerospace Valley Task Force] regarding the oxygen helmet prototype, currently pending FDA approvals in the US. Oxygen helmets help open up the alveoli in the lungs, and delay or prevent Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

Both of these will be distributed on the platform. Thanks to the generosity of Jeff Skoll and Strive Masiyiwa for their donation that secured the initial orders.

picture of lots of blue plastic medical bottles with blue lids and black straps
Image from Virgin Galactic

In response to news of the platform launch, Richard Branson said: "Congratulations to the Africa Union, Strive and all their team who built this platform in record time. This platform will help to ensure that countries across Africa have access to critical life saving supplies. It is also a wonderful example of collaboration to the rest of the world. We’ve been honoured to work with Strive, Jeff Skoll and Invicta Holdings to help support local manufacturing of the bridge ventilators and oxygen helmets that will be distributed on the platform.”

The platform was developed under the leadership of Strive Masiyiwa and powered by Janngo on behalf of the African Union’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and in partnership with African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and other leading African and international corporations, institutions and foundations. Afreximbank will facilitate payments while logistics partners including African national carriers, global freight forwarders will expedite delivery.