As access to personal protective equipment (PPE) has proved difficult to secure, especially for certain African countries which have been severely impacted by COVID-19, the African Union (AU) announced the launch of its Supplies Platform last night.

Heading up the announcement was our own president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who explained that this Platform will look to address several of the issues currently plaguing countries in the region when it comes to securing vital PPE.

The Africa Medical Supplies Platform was developed in partnership with African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), and is said to operate as a non-profit initiative, according to the African Union.

“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,” Ramaphosa noted.

“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,” he added.

The AU also says that Afreximbank will facilitate payments, while logistics partners, including African national carriers and global freight forwarders, will expedite delivery to different countries in the region.

It is important to note though, that the quantities of PPE and other medical supplies that countries will be determined by how severely they have been impacted by COVID-19. Added to this is the removal of any middle men in the ordering, securing and delivery of supplies, the African Union says, so costs should be kept as low as possible.

“Resources will be secured by governments on a quota basis determined by, among other things, vulnerability level,” said Ramaphosa in a virtual media briefing last night.

“The benefits of resource pooling in such a manner are innumerable,” he continued.

Along with addressing the needs arising from COVID-19, the president also stated some future plans for the Supplies Platform, such as being used to distribute a vaccine once it has been developed.

“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.

“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 concluded.

[Image – Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash]