Africa’s 2020 Heroes Of Philanthropy: Putting Wealth To A Good Cause In The Era of Covid-19

With the outbreak of the first reported case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa in February 2020, experts predicted that the pandemic would hit Africa the hardest. And since then, African governments and communities have continued to grapple with the unprecedented health emergency, with implications for national economies and the livelihoods of citizens.

Experts predicted that African countries may find it difficult to follow through with the WHO guidelines to curb the spread of the pandemic, and some of the issues highlighted in the forecast include:

  • Many African health systems, already overburdened with different illnesses, do not have the capacity to respond to a pandemic of this proportion.
  • As most families in Africa live in poverty and are striving to get food on a day-to-day basis; it will be difficult for families to stay home and prevent social contact.
  • The spread of the virus could result in more family separations, making it extremely challenging for African governments, donors and development partners to implement responses for affected children in time.
  • Insufficient measures to raise awareness about preventing infection, which may quickly lead to overflowing hospitals and high fatality rates.

However, contrary to these predictions, Africa, and Africans, have risen to the challenge to fight the impact of the coronavirus on its economies in the most unexpected ways. The Africa continent has presented a united front as Governments, organizations and individuals have come together in the fight against the pandemic, through rigorous awareness strategies, upgrading of medical facilities, support for businesses and SMEs, encouragement of frontline responders, providing aid and relief materials for citizens, among others.

This combined effort from African Governments, organizations and individuals alike, much to the surprise of forecasters, has placed the continent among the least affected regions. The WHO’s October 12th report on coronavirus, listed Africa among the least affected continents with a total of 1,577,644 confirmed cases.

PLEASURES magazine, in carrying out its mandate of showcasing development, innovation, and reporting the best of Africa to the world, put together a list of Top 50 COVID-19 Africa Response Champions. This include Government bodies, organizations, and individuals who have championed the fight against the impact of the pandemic, in their communities and across Africa in the most impactful ways. These response champions have partnered with Governments, through financial donations, equipment supply, service provisions, and mobilizing citizens support among other efforts.

Nigeria in focus:

When Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, announced his intention to support Africa’s fight against Covid-19 by donating essential medical supplies, Nigerians reacted with immense gratitude.

And then almost immediately, the attention shifted to Nigeria’s own billionaires. Nigerians wanted to know what the country’s top business elites were doing to support their country which, unfortunately, is one of those that have been plagued by the pandemic.

On March 26, the Coalition Against COVID-19, known as CACOVID, was formed. Led by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s wealthiest man, the coalition is backed by Access Bank Group, Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, and several others.

The mission is simple: mobilize private sector leadership and resources to support health facilities to respond to the crisis but also to use their reach to increase awareness about the pandemic.

Total donation to the CACOVID relief fund totalled over $55.7m as at April 6, with Dangote and the Central bank donating $5.1m each.

Other major private players such as Segun Agbaje (Guaranty Trust Bank), Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank), Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank), Tony Elumelu (United Bank for Africa), Abdulsamad Rabiu of BUA Group, Folorunsho Alakija of Famfa Oil Limited, Oba Otudeko (First Bank), Femi Otedola of Amperion Power, billionaire businessman Mike Adenuga of Globacom and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation have provided $2.59m each.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation alongside some oil companies has pledged $30m to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to improve patient care, medical supplies and equipment.

A top official at Guaranty Trust Bank told African Business that the private sector’s support is mainly driven by genuine philanthropy.

“We want to give back to society,” he says. “We have to be proactive and see where we can step in within the shortest amount of time possible.”

Nigeria has a very vibrant economy brimming with big corporations and banks which operate across African countries and in Europe and the United States.

​“I think what most companies have come to realize that the vast majority of their customers are daily and weekly wage earners and movement restrictions or widening of COVID-19 crisis would affect their bottom line in so far as their main customers do not have spending power to purchase goods and services,”  said Ikemesit Effiong, Head of Research at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based political and economic risk advisory.

Some wealthy businessmen and big corporations have gone beyond donating to the relief fund to directly supporting states to deal with the disease. For instance, Union Bank contributed $130,000 to the Lagos State emergency food response programme which provides food supplies to low-income families following restrictions on movement.

By extension, Yakolo Indimi Foundation gave out over 10 Thousand face masks to local communities across the northern states of Nigeria.

Speaking with PLEASURES magazine, CEO of the Foundation, Amb. Rahma Indimi said wearing face masks was just like putting on a helmet while riding a motorcycle, adding that adopting good public health measures is vital in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is up to each of us to do our part to mitigate the impact of this virus. “We encourage the use of face masks in crowded public areas.

“We are doing this noble service with the message ‘Get used to the new normal’, like practicing social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing face masks and washing hands often,” said Rahma.

The UBA Foundation, part of the Lagos-headquartered United Bank for Africa, provided $14m to support efforts locally and in countries where it has operations in Africa.

“This is a time when we must all play our part,” Tony O. Elumelu, UBA Group Chairman said in a statement. “This global pandemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together – and quickly.”

Others across Africa include:

African Medical professionals, doctors and nurses

President Cyril Ramphosa – South Africa

Patrice Motsepe – South Africa

Ghana Covid19 Private Sector Fund

Steve Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe

Trade Kings Zambia

President Andry Rajoelina – Madagascar

Commercial International Bank – Egypt

Jewel Howard Taylor – Jewel Starfish Foundation Liberia

Vodafone Ghana Foundation

Safaricom Kenya

President Paul Kagame, Republic of Rwanda

Karimjee Jivanjee Tanzania Plc

Association of Tanzania Oil And Gas Service Providers

The Oppenheimer Family – South African Future Trust

Mohan Rao – Indian Association Of Uganda

Barrick Gold Zambia

Sawiris Family Egypt

Mohammed Al Amoudi – Midroc Ethiopia

Africa indeed owes a debt of gratitude to these philanthropists and many others out there who are truly contributing to the fight against COVID-19 in the most audacious ways, often with tremendous sacrifices and courage. When all this pandemic is over, as we believe it will, Africa would still be depending on all stakeholders to chart a path to a more inclusive future for all.

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