Business Reporter
South Africa is targeted to start manufacturing ventilators that are valued 1 150 percent lower than the prevailing prices, according to entrepreneur Mr Strive Masiyiwa.

Mr Masiyiwa was recently appointed by South African President and chairman of the AU, Cyril Ramaphosa as an African Union Special Envoy to mobilise the private sector response to Covid-19, especially around personal protective equipment.

Speaking in an interview with the International Finance Corporation, Mr Masiyiwa said the team he is working with had secured a design from Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit of a “very revolutionary ventilator”.

He said the ventilator will be sold for about US$1 200 which is much lower than the prevailing price of US$15 000.

“We are going to start manufacturing 10 000 of these ventilators in South Africa.”

That’s just one of many initiatives that we are trying to pull together at the moment, said Mr Masiyiwa.

He said the team had also developed an online marketplace for all the African countries to buy what they need, and to be able to pay for it, to organise the financing for it.

Mr Masiyiwa is of the opinion that Africa could be six weeks behind what is seen as the peak in the United States or in Europe. He suggests that in the meantime both the private and public sector should focus on fighting the spread of the disease.

“It has to be a call to the private sector to step forward, pivot with their businesses, pivot with their skills, pivot with their leadership and roll up their sleeves,” advised Mr Masiyiwa.

Mr Masiyiwa whose company Liquid Telecom built Africa’s largest independent fibre network, spanning over 70 000km, and operates state-of-the-art data centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi, said anybody who is developing digital platforms is going to be a big winner from the Covid-19 crisis.

On things that the private sector actors and Government should focus on, Mr Masiyiwa suggested a jobs and enterprise driven Marshall Plan for Africa’s public health system.

“So, I’m calling for a $15 to $20 billion Marshall Plan for Africa’s health care infrastructure: public hospitals, private sector investment into ensuring that we have the hospitals and we have the infrastructure, pharmacies, manufacturing facilities, the pharmaceutical industry is missing.

“All this needs to be built. With a serious crisis of this nature we must harness lessons from it and make sure that we come out better and stronger. So why not start where the crisis began? A major fund for the healthcare infrastructure.”