The Covid-19 global health crisis has caused many huge and unforeseen contingencies for both the developed and developing countries of the world and is swiftly exposing the systemic inequalities, weak public health systems, and infrastructural gaps in many sectors of various economies. Already, more than 6 million people around the world have been infected with the novel virus, inclusive of those in Africa which with its fast rising rate of infection has now recorded over 233,836 cases in 54 African countries as at 15th May 2020. What this means for many African countries affected is that the fight against Covid-19 is likely to frustrate the unceasing effort towards reducing global poverty and the income gap on the continent.

The Brookings Institute estimated that around 422 million people – one in three Africans – live below the global poverty line. The World Bank also reported that the pandemic has significantly affected the Sub-Saharan African countries and the fallout could push the continent into its first recession in 25 years. In many of these countries, stimulus packages, palliatives, and social safety programs from the government have failed to reach those already deprived of their sources of livelihood. This is in addition to the fact that the health systems in these countries have very limited capacity to manage the pandemic.

While many people still look up to their respective governments at different levels to mitigate the impacts of the virus, social enterprises are providing some supports in the form of social safety nets. While some are addressing the systemic and market failures in various key sectors of the African economy and helping the continent address the inequality gap.

Amongst these essential solutions, models and innovations that support the delivery of healthcare services and products have been rather dominant, as they directly see to the lowering of the need for in-person contact which is one of the major recommendations provided by the World Health Organization. In countries like Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, tele-pharmacy and e-commerce enterprises such as Kasha, MedRx, MYDAWA, and Jumia are reporting a rise in orders for Covid-19 related products, including smart lockers, hand sanitizers, face shields, infrared thermometers, nose masks, and automated dispensers. These organizations have not only prioritized orders that help in the fight against the pandemic, in some ways, they have also resolved the challenge posed by the dispensation of drugs from many public health facilities limited in supply and by capacity.

As a way of ensuring that Africa does not fall any further behind, Right ePharmacy, an innovative and strategic solution provider in South Africa is also leveraging on technology and helping in the collection of medicine, dispensation, and drug distribution, through the use of temperature-controlled lockers and ATMs. Wellvis, a Nigeria-based company developed a Covid-19 Triage Tool, which helps users self-examine their coronavirus risk category online, based on their history of exposure and symptoms. Barely a month after its launch, the tool was reportedly used by an enormous estimate of 400,000 people globally. In Ghana, mPharma, a digital pharmacy supply platform is also helping the country increase its testing capacity by supplying private laboratories with Covid-19 test kits and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines.

Other entrepreneurs and business leaders across various industries have also been working relentlessly to address the many others concerns given rise to by the pandemic; with most primarily supporting communities via relief initiatives and other forms of social support to combat the virus or directly tackling its ripple effects. The Coalition against Covid-19, known as CACOVID, is one of such organizations formed to address some of these social concerns in Nigeria. The organization, which is a private sector initiative led by Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, is supported by several reputable businesses, inclusive of top industry giants such as Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Famfa Oil Limited, Globacom, and Amperion Power. The alliance is set out to also deliver food relief packages to a targeted 1.7 million households in Nigeria as part of the action plans towards mitigating the impacts of the restrictions and lockdown measures adopted by different sub-national governments, many of which have primarily and severely affected the informal sectors and a vast majority of the population surviving on daily income. Another mention worthy endeavor by the coalition is the earlier ordered 250,000 supplies for tests accompanied by another 150,000 extraction kits to build up the capacity required for molecular testing.

While many African countries are yet to reach the tipping points of their coronavirus outbreaks, these 21st-century enterprise leaders and change agents are conferring high levels of hope through the significant aid they have constantly provided the continent in its bid to overcome the various impediments prompted by the pandemic; through locally innovated and tailored solutions, social missions, public awareness, and access to healthcare. Though addressing all inequality challenges is totally out of the question, their mission-based motivation, value systems, collaborative approach, and alliance for the good of all have been able to prevent the further deepening of the divides whilst simultaneously mitigating some of the huge risks presented by Africa’s growing health and social protection systems.

by Opeoluwa O. Runsewe
Nigeria