AU gets private funding for Ebola

2014-11-09 15:00

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Addis Ababa: A hastily convened “business round table on Ebola” has succeeded in getting $28.5?million (R321?million) in “initial” cash donations to fund the deployment by the ­African Union (AU) of a 1?000-strong African medical corps to the epicentre of the west African Ebola outbreak.

The AU earlier secured pledges from member states to send more than 2?000 medical personnel, mostly military, to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

To fund that mission, the union turned to a network of ­businesspeople who have secured donations from major corporations.

Speaking to City Press ahead of yesterday’s round table, AU Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the ­mission was designed to plug a “gap” in the international response to the ­Ebola outbreak – which has so far killed about 5?000 people.

“Most of them [international donors] are building infrastructure, not sending doctors,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

“Apart from the Cubans, no one has sent large numbers,” she said, referring to the more than 250 Cuban doctors and nurses who have been deployed to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

She said Doctors Without Borders had also put a significant number of boots on the ground. However, most other countries that had pledged or committed support were sending supplies – not ­people who could use those supplies.

“For us, it is about the personnel,” said Dlamini-Zuma. “Now we are working on sending them there.”

The new private sector fund for the AU aims to get 1?000 personnel deployed and have them rotate with the other 1?000 on tours of up to three months.

The African doctors would be in service to the three affected countries’ respective governments – not made to set up separate relief missions, she said.

“We plug into the government health systems – we are not in the business of providing healthcare. Those governments can decide where to send them.”

Strive Masiyiwa, the Zimbabwe-born founder and chair of Econet Wireless, spoke on behalf of the business delegation at a press conference yesterday. He said several corporations would provide donations “in kind”. This included logistical ­support and insurance for the AU personnel.

More cash would be forthcoming after several companies ran it past their boards, he said.

“This is about business in Africa, not just African-owned ­business,” said Masiyiwa.

Among those attending the round table were several representatives of non-African multinationals. Coca-Cola, Ericsson and the Dutch energy-trading group Vitol were there, as well as Swedish investment group Kinnevik, its telecoms subsidiary Millicom, and others.

Famous Nigerian billionaires Aliko Dangote and Tony ­Elumelu were both represented by their charitable foundations, while the Tanzanian conglomerate Quality Group’s chair Yusuf Manji attended himself.

Patrice Motsepe and Vodacom chair Peter Moyo were among the guests from South Africa.

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