Photo: World Bank.

“Think of it as the Amazon, the Alibaba or even the eBay of Coronavirus resources on the African continent, made in Africa by Africans, the fundamental difference being that on this platform, the buyer is not an individual but governments,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Photo: World Bank.

As chairman of the African Union, he said yesterday the new continental online entity, the non-profit Africa Medical Supplies Platform, would help African countries access critical medical supplies needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also be a way for African countries to work together, and be one of the building blocks for an African Free Trade Zone.

According to figures given by Ramaphosa earlier this week, Africa has over 250,000 confirmed infections and about 6,700 deaths.

“Through this platform, we 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.”

The platform, developed in partnership with African Export-Import Bank, was launched by the African Union as an immediate, integrated and practical response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is powered by pan-African digital company Janngo, on behalf of the African Union’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Afreximbank will facilitate payments, while logistics partners, including African national carriers (such as South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, according to earlier statements) and global freight forwarders, will expedite delivery.

A strong emphasis is also placed on showcasing and funding ‘Made in Africa’ manufacturers of medical equipment, with relevant certification.

Ramaphosa said countries would be able to source supplies directly from manufacturers in both the necessary quantities and at competitive prices.

“Once a vaccine is available, it too will be added to this portal, in line with our stated commitment to ensuring there is equitable access to any form of lifesaving medication.”

He said countries would have ready access to an online marketplace at the click of a button, as opposed to the onerous and time-consuming process of scouring the globe to procure these medical supplies.

Ramaphosa said connecting manufacturers and suppliers with governments directly removed the ‘middle man’ in supply chain processes that far too often become the doorway through which corrupt practices, like price inflation and ‘agent management fees’, enter.

“By pooling the needs of the continent, we manage to achieve quantities of scale and present suppliers with a large and assured market.

“Finally, and arguably most importantly, with this platform, we are laying another building block towards the African Continental Free Trade Area, whose launch has been delayed by the pandemic,” he said.