Jack Ma ‘to donate coronavirus test kits to Africa’

Jack Ma ‘to donate coronavirus test kits to Africa’

Mr Ma earlier his month donated medical supplies to the US

Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has pledged donate 20,000 testing kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 protective suits to each African country to help the fight against coronavirus.

Mr Ma, Asia’s richest person, earlier this month sent consignments of medical supplies to the US and pledged to distribute two million protective masks across Europe.

The supplies for Africa would be delivered to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed overseeing distribution to the rest of the continent, he said in a statement.

“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 said.

Mr Abiy confirmed the news in a series of tweets and spoke of his “great appreciation” for Jack Ma’s partnership:

Mr Ma said his Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation would also provide online material for coronavirus clinical treatment to medical institutions on the continent.

There has been a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Africa in recent days, although they are still fewer than in most other continents.

Strict measures have been ordered – including travel restrictions and the closure of schools – in South Africa and Kenya among others.

There are concerns that the continent’s weak health systems may be unable to cope with a large outbreak, and that governments lack financial and logistical resources to deal with the virus.

Nomads have been affected by the mystery illness

The Somali region of eastern Ethiopia has been affected by a mystery illness. Over the past few years, hundreds have died.

The deadly sickness is striking mainly nomadic communities who roam the Ogaden Basin, where companies, some of them foreign-owned, have been prospecting for oil and gas.

A regional official said more than 2,000 people had died from the mystery illness. An unknown number of others have become very sick.

Juweria Ali, a human rights researcher who has spent months investigating the issue, says the symptoms are horrific and include nosebleeds, eyes turning green or yellow, really high fever, fainting and ultimately death.

Ms Ali says the illness could be related to the activities of those hoping to exploit what are believed to be vast reserves of oil and gas – although scientific studies would be needed to prove this.

“Locals describe seeing white powder spilled in their neighbourhoods by companies operating. When it rains, these toxins then flow into the river, which people drink – so it’s a vicious cycle,” she said.

Companies operating in the area have declined to comment on the chemical spillages.

So have the Ethiopian authorities, despite increasing demands from the affected communities that they take some kind of action:

“Government officials in Addis Ababa have completely denied the existence of any health or environmental issues. In fact one official denied that anyone even lives around the area, which is of course contrary to what we know,” said Ms Ali.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said oil and gas are an essential part of Ethiopia’s future, and will generate much needed jobs.

But previous attempts to exploit the Ogaden Basin’s precious resources have run into trouble – Emperor Haile Selassie was forced by mass demonstrations to abandon a project.

Rebels have also been active in the area. In 2007 they stormed a Chinese-run oilfield, killing 74 people. It is possible this mystery illness could further delay efforts to exploit these valuable resources.