#OneFightAgainst Corona (Part 8)

#OneFightAgainst Corona (Part 8)

__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:


Author:Strive Masiyiwa

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.

18 Replies to “#OneFightAgainst Corona (Part 8)”

  1. Peter Munyi writes,

    Fuata Application for Contact Tracing

    Dear Strive and the rest of Africa,

    My name is Peter Munyi from Nairobi, Kenya.

    What a confidence? My team and I have been working on a contact tracing application. In the fight against Corona Virus, tracing cases is very key in curbing the spread. Our application saves all digital unique IDs of people you meet and uploads them on the database. When somebody you met tests positive, then you are notified immediately.

    We target to trace over 80% of Corona Virus cases in Africa and lower spread by 50% by tracing positive cases early enough.

    Here’s is our website if you would love to read more regarding our progress.


    We shall overcome

    My reply,
    Well done!
    A definite #ShoutOut!

    I have asked my team to make contact with you. This is what Africa needs to see.

  2. Afterthought 2.

    Here is a background as to how this initiative came about. Jeff Skoll is one of the most generous philanthropists in the world. I first met him during the Ebola pandemic, and quickly realized that this is one of the most knowledgeable people about diseases that can become a pandemic. He spends hundreds of millions of dollars funding research to help poor countries, and Africa, in particular.

    What I love about Jeff is his passionate belief in the power of innovation. Remember he is one of the founders of one of the most successful tech companies in history, eBay!

    When I called Jeff he told me that he wanted to come up with a cheap design for a ventilator.

    “Let’s talk to Richard, because he has a lot of very smart engineers at Virgin Galactic, his space company,” he suggested.

    Richard Branson, as always, was already on to it…

    “We have looked at ventilator design, and our guys have completely re-engineered it. Let’s bring in other philanthropists who can help back the work including funding the first units” he said in his quiet unassuming way, which shows he is deeply committed.

    That was just a few months ago. Our group of philanthropists meets every week, and reviews progress on this and other initiatives.

    Getting the design was one thing, but actually getting it produced in Africa, needed a company that had the engineering capability and scale. Most large companies are not willing to retool and change their normal products. We began searching around for such a company.

    Invicta Holdings is a manufacturing giant in South Africa, and its largest shareholder is also a philanthropist. Dr Christo Weise ordered his people “to retool and produce whatever is required.”

    I remember when he called me to discuss the project, he said: “Strive, I’m an African, and we must do everything to protect our people. Count me in, also”.

    Engineers at Invicta, Virgin Galactic, and our own Gavin Manning began to work on the production tooling.

    The other day I called Gavin Pelser, CEO of Invicta, who sounds like an evangelist in terms of passion for the project:

    “Gavin, I need you to deliver 10,000 over three months. Show me what Africa can do,” I said.

    He laughed, and said he would come back.

    “Dr Weise said it’s ok. Just get us the orders and we will manufacture what you want.”

    I asked for 10,000, because my target is secure 30,000 units for African hospitals. With his confirmation, I had just hit my target!

    They are going to start out producing 1,000 units which will be donated to several African countries. They are also prepared to manufacture 10,000 more ventilators, which will be sold at 15% of the value of most ventilators sold in Europe, and America. This is because the ventilator in question was designed specifically to meet a low cost price point.

    Remember my mantra: “There are good people out there; look for them!”

  3. Afterthought 3.

    A few weeks ago I told you here that I was invited to do a podcast interview with my friend Mike Milken, who also by the way launched an excellent COVID-19 website. Have you seen it yet? Do your research and let me know what you think!

    The new Milken Institute podcast just went public last night. You can find it on the Apple store, Spotify and a few other places an soon we will be publishing it on Sasai podcasts. Stay tuned! Here’s a link:


  4. Afterthought 4.

    While we may be talking a lot here about the COVID-19 crisis, it is up to you as entrepreneurs to use your time well and keep doing your homework.

    Below is a quote from an article written by Peter Drucker, back in 1994. What do you think has changed, if anything, in the past 26 years in the “theory of business” he describes? I’ve shared the link of the whole article: https://hbr.org/1994/09/the-theory-of-the-business

    “A theory of the business has three parts. First, there are assumptions about the environment of the organization: society and its structure, the market, the customer, and technology.

    Second, there are assumptions about the specific mission of the organization. Sears, Roebuck and Company, in the years during and following World War I, defined its mission as being the informed buyer for the American family. A decade later, Marks and Spencer in Great Britain defined its mission as being the change agent in British society by becoming the first classless retailer. AT&T, again in the years during and immediately after World War I, defined its role as ensuring that every U.S. family and business have access to a telephone. An organization’s mission need not be so ambitious. GM envisioned a far more modest role—as the leader in “terrestrial motorized transportation equipment,” in the words of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. In the 1920s, Marks and Spencer set out to transform British society by becoming the first classless retailer.

    Third, there are assumptions about the core competencies needed to accomplish the organization’s mission. For example, West Point, founded in 1802, defined its core competence as the ability to turn out leaders who deserve trust. Marks and Spencer, around 1930, defined its core competence as the ability to identify, design, and develop the merchandise it sold, instead of as the ability to buy. AT&T, around 1920, defined its core competence as technical leadership that would enable the company to improve service continuously while steadily lowering rates.”

    Image credit: Virgin. Here’s a link the release: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/african-and-global-philanthropists-team-up-to-manufacture-covid-19-medical-equipment-in-africa-301065611.html

  5. Afterthought:

    As the press statement says, I have been working on an Online platform for African countries to buy all the medical supplies to fight Covid-19.
    It will be known as the Medical Supplies Centre.
    Countries will buy just like you would on Jumia or Alibaba, except it will only have urgent supplies for hospitals etc.,
    Only countries can buy from the platform, which will have supplies from both African and global suppliers.
    The platform has some very interesting tech!

    We have also made arrangements with key African airlines like Ethiopian, Rwanda, and SAA Cargo to manage our logistics from Europe, China, Middle East, and the USA.

    My team from Vaya Logistics built the platform together with young African volunteers. It is a FREE GIFT to the Africa Center for Disease Control.

    A young African tech entrepreneur and one of the founders of Jumia is leading the project. Her name is Fatoumata Ba. If you want to know the next generation of billionaires, she is one to watch!

  6. #Pause:

    Logistics for The Medical Supplies Center.

    Africa will have to spend more than $3bn [about $55m per country, on a straight line basis] over the next six months in emergency medical supplies.
    Moving that amount of supplies requires major logistics capability. As part of my job, as Special Envoy, my team and I have had to put in place all the necessary logistics. We have created partnerships with African flag carriers like SAA Cargo, Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, and Rwanda Air. We have also had to put in place partners with global logistics companies like Fedex, and DHL.
    It has been possible because of the entrepreneurial leadership shown by these organizations. As soon as they heard we are working on this, they were quick to approach us. Now it is all in place waiting for the grand opening.

  7. Kolawole Olalekan Eleos writes,

    I’m a cinematographer and video editor by profession. my team and i did a video vox pop/ documentary in ibadan Nigeria just to help the state government to spread information provided for masses in order not to contact corona virus but we haven’t seen channel or means to give it to state government which we are still working on, so that such video can be air on state television and social media in order to spread more the information to people and make the state corona virus free state also to make people careful and watchful and adhere strictly to measures the state government provided for them in order not to contact corona virus.

    Thanks for always Inspire me and world at large .


    My reply,
    Well done for taking this initiative.
    Whilst I cannot do anything to help you in Nigeria, I can help you on Sasai Watch, which will be live next week. As soon as you see it, you can let us know and someone will help you post it.

  8. Philippe Idowu writes,

    You are not alone in this initiative Sir, Africa is all behind you to see an end to this pandemic. Meanwhile, some of us are doing what we can do within our capacity to assist others.

    My reply,
    This is the most important thing you said:

    This really blessed me. I know from this statement that you are a practical person who can become my kind of entrepreneur.
    I hope my team that organizes the TeamTalks will include you in one of the future events. You earned it with this comment. Be ready to tell me what you have been doing.

  9. #Reflection:

    If you want to really help, never concern yourself with what someone else does, or does not do.
    The moment you take the attitude that says something like:
    “Why can’t so-and-so do something?!
    Or why is so-and-so not doing this and this?!”
    You have just declared in your own heart that you are just going to sit back and watch!

    I don’t get up and say “Why is Tony Elumelu or Patrice not doing what I’m doing?!”
    That would be childish.
    I leave them to do what they do, and I do what I can do.
    I was at a meeting the other day when Patrice donated $6m. Now you probably did not know about it.
    Aliko has committed more than $100m.
    But most importantly, there are millions of ordinary people donating time, money and even hazarding their very lives in service of others.

    Finally, don’t wait to be led by others. True entrepreneurs will JUST DO IT, with whatever is in their own hands!

    Let’s get out there and stop this thing…please!

  10. #Message to Austin!

    ~~Did you find the Sasai Health Status Report in “Suriname”?

    Sasai Health Status Report, is probably the most important innovation I have ever led because of what it could achieve.
    Give it another month.

    Meanwhile if you can’t wait go to Suriname, on Sasai Explore.

  11. #Breaking News!

    I will talk about Electric Cars soon!


    TechCrunch – Vaya Africa, a ride-hail mobility venture founded by Zimbabwean mogul Strive Masiyiwa, has launched an electric taxi service and charging network in Zimbabwe with plans to expand across the continent. The South Africa headquartered company has acquired a fleet of Nissan Leaf EVs and developed its own solar powered charging stations. The program goes live in Zimbabwe this week, as Vaya finalizes partnerships to begin on-demand electric taxi and delivery services in markets that could include Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia. https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/27/vaya-africa-launches-electric-ride-hail-taxi-network/

  12. #BIG, BIG, ShoutOut!

    Joseph Chinokoro writes,

    Thank you chief for your never ending source if inspiration. I have made an artificial intelligent chat bot that give updates on Covid 19 and information on how the virus spreads, preventive methods etc more features are being added. The chatbot can be intergrated with all social media platforms whats app included and possibly SASSAI……. say hi to https://bot.dialogflow.com/40c15144-e4c4-4d9c-b08e-be9ecfb73e2

    My reply,
    This is great. You have made my list of future @TeamTalk.
    Well done!

  13. #BreakingNews
    List for Saturday 30 May Sasai Afripreneur #TeamTalk

    It’s been a really busy week but I want to do my best to make time to speak with some of you in our second Sasai Afripreneur #TeamTalk, this Saturday as promised.

    Just like last week, those named on the list below who are interested in joining the call must check your inbox or message request on Facebook for a message from my team. They need to hear from you by no later than 5 pm CAT on Friday 29 May. Please do not delay. If unsure how to check message requests please refer to instructions link below: https://www.facebook.com/help/936247526442073

    The first 16 of you who get in touch and send my team the information they need for the call will be able to participate on this week’s #TeamTalk.

    Start thinking about your questions. If you’re not on this list, don’t worry; there are more #TeamTalks to come. Please stay safe and healthy everyone.

    1. Rosemary Onyoibo Akwashiki
    2. Amanda-mercy Tsiga
    3. Kelly Bahati
    4. Oluwatomisin Inne Innih
    5. Bonolo Monthe
    6. Adebimpe Ayodele
    7. Goodluck Ojusin
    8. Tijani Ibn Aliyu
    9. Thabiso Dlamini
    10. Faruna Godwin Abuh
    11. Rufus Iliya
    12. Adedayo Olumuyiwa
    13. Sydney Mukonoweshuro
    14. Edesiri Ekokota
    15. Bob Pyne
    16. Chinoso Forbes Ozoaniekwe,
    17. Nobleman Zulu
    18. Bob Ugee
    19. Nico Ginger
    20. Murah Regalo Pablo
    21. Newton Waniba

  14. Chinonso Forbes Ozoaniekwe writes,

    Sir, I see a different business model against what Vaya Electric’s competitors are doing.

    From my own understanding, Vaya Electric will have to provide the drivers with the electric vehicles, which means Vaya gets to do the servicing, maintenance etc.. How sustainable is the model when the business reaches the point of scaling?

    My reply,
    I like your question!

    #1. When we scale Vaya Electric, we will encourage the drivers to own electric cars. We will even provide them with loans. This is because we don’t want to own cars.
    #2. The main objective of Vaya Electric is to demonstrate to ordinary citizens the electric option:
    They can ride in electric cars, and see their convenience. This way when they choose to buy a new car they will consider electric.
    Making money is not my priority here, but #Sustainability.

    #3. Electric cars are much cheaper to maintain, and of course there is no fuel cost.

    #4. People who buy an electric car [which we don’t supply, because we are not car dealers], can also approach DPA Solar home solutions if they want continued energy.


  15. Fruebi Bature Patience writes,

    As a business owner my business relies on delivery and logistics company getting goods delivered to clients who order online.so I have just bought a franchise on a platform to get delivery vans and bikes registered as well as customers so that they can access easy delivery without delays. Every one is expected to download our App to get access to stress less delivery. Last month I ordered a cake to be delivered as a surprise to a dear family friend.it was schedule to be delivered by 8am before she left for work .the baker couldn’t meet up as the delivery guy came in the evening this Ruined our early morning plans.so I am excited am a part of this .

    My reply,
    I’m excited for you.
    You understand the future.

  16. #Reflection:

    I can’t wait to talk to you about the opportunities presented to entrepreneurs by electric cars!

    It is absolutely mind blowing!

    Some of you on this platform are going to be “$£ billionaires!”

    I have been to the future, and I have peered:

    The mobility revolution will be beautiful!

    Start today to study the electric car industry!

    Did you know 30m electric cars were sold last year?!!

    Awesome! Gives me goose pimples.

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