Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, and his online shopping platform, Alibaba, last week made good a promise to deliver a consignment of 1.5 million laboratory diagnostic test kits and over 100 tonnes of infection prevention and control commodities to Africa to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the consignment, which arrived last Monday, Jack Ma sent to Nigeria and each of the 53 other African countries, 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical protective suits and face shields to battle spread of the virus.
The donation, after arriving Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and received by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Ethiopian government, was later distributed across Africa, including Nigeria.
“We cannot assume this continent of 1.3 billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. The world cannot afford the unthinkable consequences of a COVID-19 pandemic in Africa,” he said in a statement.
The chairman of the African Union Peace and Security Council, Mohamed Farah, appealed to ministries on the continent to ensure that the materials are distributed and used where they are mostly needed.
The Director of Africa CDC, John Nkengasong, thanked Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundation and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, for supporting African countries in the fight against the global outbreak.
“We are facing a humanitarian situation, an economic situation and a security situation in the continent, and Africa CDC clearly applauds the initiative of the prime minister and Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundation,” Mr Nkengasong noted.
But as we celebrate Jack Ma’s gesture, it is noteworthy that the COVID-19 outbreak has continued to spread rapidly across Nigeria and the world, and in its path, claiming lives. Though only two deaths have yet been reported in Nigeria, many are testing positive after the discharge of the index case, others negative, and there is need for strenuous effort to check its spread, even as confirmed cases were reported to have risen to about 174.
Following concerns recently raised on the economic effect of the pandemic on the Nigerian economy as oil revenue dwindles, it is likely that government revenue will be over stretched and thus weaken its ability to holistically and decisively respond to the pandemic.
There is, therefore, an urgent need for the Nigerian elite to rise to the occasion and emulate Jack Ma by donating towards efforts to stem spread of the deadly virus and avert the catastrophe that looms if it vigorously takes hold on Nigeria and Africa.
The challenge is more pronounced as Nigeria had before now, been battling to improve the healthcare sector over the years, hence a delay in arresting the unfolding situation might portend an unprecedented doom.
The rich in Nigeria should, therefore, waste no effort and good will to mobilize resources to counter the pandemic and save the country by stopping the virus from spreading.
This will be in form of provision of more materials apart from Jack Ma’s donation, as more testing kits, the right hospital equipment, health workers, more designated testing centres, more facilities in hospitals and even more money are needed to help the situation.
Now is the time for Nigeria’s flourishing banks, oil companies and telecommunication companies among others, to team up in a spirit reminiscent of “We Are the World”, a charity single originally recorded by the super group, USA for Africa in 1985 for African famine relief.
It is pleasing to note that while the federal government has approved a N10 billion grant to fight spread of coronavirus in the country, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) has also announced a donation of N5 billion to provide beds for isolation centers, intensive care unit facilities and direct access to medical advice to up to 450,000 citizens every day.
Wealthy Nigerians including Femi Otedola, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, are reported to have contributed N1 billion each to support the government in curtailing the pandemic in Nigeria. More of this is needed to arrest the situation and, by extension, rescue Nigeria from an imminent doom.