__Case study: The power of teamwork to tackle challenges.
There is an old African saying, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. In the past few months, I can say that it is possible to go BOTH fast and far… if you put together the right team. Today I want to share an update on something I’ve worked on only for the past few months, with some very good friends of mine, Sir Richard Branson and eBay founder Jeff Skoll, along with some visionary teams, African and global alike.
You all know by now that as an entrepreneur, it is important to keep your eyes open, and if at all possible, to reach out and meet a human need with the products and services you offer. Today I am going to share with you the actual press release that was just sent out to the media today (Wednesday) to tell them about this initiative. I haven’t done this here before but I want you to study it as a real-time case study.
I am sure some of you entrepreneurs here on the platform are also in the process of inventing, innovating or putting together your own businesses, or teams, in your own communities to help tackle the impact of the deadly pandemic we’re fighting now, as well as preparing for the post-COVID days ahead. Let’s talk.
# African and global philanthropists team-up to manufacture COVID-19 medical equipment in Africa
African and global philanthropists have teamed up to help African nations secure urgently needed ventilators, breathing support devices and other medical equipment, in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strive Masiyiwa, co-founder of Higherlife Foundation, who has recently been appointed as an African Union Special Envoy to mobilise the private sector response to COVID-19, is leading a private partnership to start local manufacturing of the equipment. Working with fellow philanthropists Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Skoll, the group have identified two solutions which will be manufactured in South Africa.
The initiative will start with the production of 1,000 bridge ventilators, a design that was provided to this partnership for free by Virgin Orbit and has recently received emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is designed with a price significantly lower than a normal ventilator.
The partners are also in discussions with Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company regarding the oxygen helmet prototype produced in partnership with NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California and the Aerospace Valley Task Force in California, pending a grant of emergency use authorization by the US FDA. Oxygen helmets help open up the alveoli in the lungs, and delay or prevent Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
“We have found a major South African company called Invicta Holdings that can mass produce these bridge ventilators and oxygen helmets. Any country that wants them can buy them at cost from that company,” said Masiyiwa, founder and Group Chairman of Econet Global. “This is a not-for-profit venture for us as philanthropists”.
The philanthropists have come together to secure initial orders, ensuring that the devices can quickly reach healthcare professionals across the continent to save lives. This will be the first of many innovations that will be locally manufactured in Africa to serve the needs of over 1.2 billion people facing the onslaught of this pandemic.
Masiyiwa has also pulled together a team to build an online platform to manage global procurement of medical equipment, including PPE. To be launched in partnership with the Africa CDC before the end of May, it will play a critical role in supply management, with Invicta one of many manufacturers who has agreed to sell medical equipment through this platform.
Branson, whose companies developed the ventilator and oxygen helmets as part of their philanthropic efforts to support the global COVID-19 response, has a deep and long relationship with Africa.
“We’ve been honoured to work in partnership with Strive, Jeff and the team at Invicta to get much needed bridge ventilators and oxygen helmets to countries across Africa,” Branson said.
“I’m so proud of the teams at Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic who immediately pivoted their engineering expertise to create low-cost, innovative solutions to save lives. Our foundation, Virgin Unite, will continue to support this partnership and work with its other partners, like Last Mile Health who are mobilising thousands of community health workers, to do what we can to help flatten the curve in Africa.”
In 2014-16, the African Union in partnership with a range of global organisations, successfully led the response to Ebola in West Africa, stopping it from taking millions of lives and spreading to the rest of the world. Its expertise will be critical in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and in strengthening health systems across the continent.
Founded by Jeff Skoll, the California-based Skoll Foundation has committed to expanding its giving to $200m to fight COVID-19 and its impacts. Skoll’s first COVID-19 grants were directed to the African continent in early February to assist with pandemic preparedness and response. A full list of Skoll’s grants to date are available on their website.
Skoll said, “The global scope of this pandemic requires an urgent and coordinated response. This is a tangible example of how working together gets us farther, faster on behalf of those who deserve access to PPE and assistive breathing devices but have been boxed out of the global purchasing markets. We consider it an honour to work with Strive, Richard, and the Africa CDC on this effort.”
Gavin Pelser, Director of Invicta Holdings and CEO of Engineering Solutions Group shared, “Invicta Holdings Chairman, Dr Christo Wiese, has personally committed to various initiatives with the objective of minimising the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential devastating outcome on the people of Africa. Dr Wiese is proud to be part of this great initiative, working with Richard, Strive and Jeff to procure specialized equipment designed by the best engineers in the world from Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic. Invicta will deliver high quality manufacturing of this world-class product in Africa for the people of Africa.”
End of press release.
These are very unusual times. As an entrepreneur you can understand there is nothing “normal” about creating products that you hope and pray that no one will ever need to use… but the reality is that we need to be prepared to help our people survive if they contract the disease. I appreciate the involvement of everyone on this project so far.
I hope to hear what you are working on, too.
To be continued. . .
Image credit: Virgin Orbit. Here’s link to press release:
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa