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Medical Supplies Platform Gives African Countries Buying Power

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The African Union has announced the launch of a one-stop online shop that will help countries buy much-needed medical equipment during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Africa Medical Supplies Platform lists cost-effective testing kits, personal protective equipment, ventilators, patient monitors and disinfectants from certified manufacturers.

Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, who helped develop the platform, said the African Union is getting requests “from other parts of the world to license the concept.”

“Africa is leading the way with this online solution to ensure all of our governments get access to personal protective equipment and other urgent medical supplies they need, at fair prices,” Masiyiwa said in a report by The Namibian.

The platform, which will work like Amazon or eBay, is a result of a partnership involving the African Union; the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Janngo, a social startup studio; the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank); the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; and other organizations.

In July 2020, Masiyiwa announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had joined the partnership and secured at least 9 million tablets of the drug dexamethasone, which will be distributed to countries free. “We have a shared belief that access to lifesaving tools should not be dependent on ability to pay,” Masiyiwa said.

Typically, payments will be handled by Afreximbank, and African carriers such as RwandAir, Ethiopian Airways and South African Airways will transport goods to major cities. Most orders will be delivered in five to 10 days.

Masiyiwa said the platform will “unashamedly” tout products manufactured in Africa.

“This platform is not-for-profit; it sits with the Africa CDC and with Afreximbank,” Masiyiwa said in a report by South Africa’s News24. “Those are the core partners of the platform, no fees, no business for any of us.” 

In announcing the platform, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said this sort of collective action will “bind the continent together.”

The platform “will address shortages and security of supply, ensure price competitiveness and transparency in procurement, reduce logistical delays, simplify payment processes, and provide a common platform where governments can access services from quality and certified suppliers,” Ramaphosa said.

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