•  Entrepreneurs and small businesses will be especially hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be at the frontlines of economic and community recovery once the crisis passes 
  • African entrepreneurs who participated in the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) have been demonstrating innovation, resilience and leadership at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in Africa 
  • ANPI hopes to empower more mission-driven entrepreneurs to pioneer new solutions, find economic lifelines, and be heroes for their local communities in the 2nd year of Prize competition. 

The COVID-19 health emergency has ushered in a time of uncertainty and fear across the world. In Africa, the readiness of the local economies and health care systems to respond to the outbreak has led to rising concerns.

Economically speaking, entrepreneurs and small businesses will be some of the hardest hit during this crisis. As such, these extraordinary times will call for extraordinary leadership. It will be up to entrepreneurs to help tackle the immense challenges that face us today, and to build up their businesses and the local economies once the crisis passes.

Last November, the Jack Ma Foundation’s flagship philanthropic program – the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) awarded a pool of US$1 million in grant-funding to ten extraordinary African entrepreneurs. The 2019 winners have demonstrated incredible resilience and leadership in these times of crisis, and have also been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in Africa.

Here are how these winners are leveraging their company’s business solutions and the boost from their ANPI grant to contribute to Africa’s fight against the pandemic:

Developing Alcohol-Free Sanitisers While Aiding Research in North Africa

How African entrepreneurs have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19
How African entrepreneurs have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19

Led by Omar Sakr, Nawah-Scientific is an online scientific research company in Egypt that provides a platform of high-tech research. Nawah-Scientific is responding to the COVID-19 outbreak with a recently developed skin-friendly hand sanitiser designed to remedy skin dehydration problems caused by continuous use of alcohol-based sanitisers. The company also continues to support research in the region by offering free pickup services for research samples requiring examination at their laboratory, while also partnering with SciWare, to experiment on a cheaper and quicker way to diagnose the COVID-19 using Near Infra-Red technology.

Fighting COVID-19 With Clean Water in Rwandan Households

A family in Rwanda happily testing the newly installed water pump in their compound. Source: Water Access Rwanda
A family in Rwanda happily testing the newly installed water pump in their compound. Source: Water Access Rwanda

For Christelle Kwizera and her team at Water Access Rwanda (WAR), providing running water for households in Rwanda is key.

Families without access to clean drinking water are among the most vulnerable during this public health crisis since without running water they are unable to follow a critical anti-COVID-19 guideline: frequent and thorough handwashing. With water available only at public points for most households, there is also limited ability to practice social distancing.

The WAR team has sped up efforts to connect households to water supply, so they can access water from the comfort of their home and thus observe mandatory social distancing. Currently, the team is working to connect at least six new households on a daily basis.

Without the services of social enterprises such as WAR, vulnerable communities will find it a challenge coping when city lockdowns are enforced by the Government.

Mobilising Necessary Medical Equipment for Health Facilities in Nigeria

How African entrepreneurs have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19
How African entrepreneurs have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19

LifeBank is a medical distribution company that uses data and technology to help health workers discover critical medical products. At LifeBank, founder and CEO Temie Giwa-Tubosun’s team has opened an online registry for enlisting equipment like ventilators, respirators and ICU Beds within Nigeria.

This is a proactive measure that LifeBank is taking to ensure the country is well-equipped to cater for persons infected with coronavirus. The company is also distributing floor stickers to hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores to promote social distancing.

Delivering Free Sanitisers and Face Masks to Health Workers

How African entrepreneurs have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19
How African entrepreneurs have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19

DrugStoc is a cloud-based pharmaceutical IT and logistics platform focused on expanding access to pharmaceutical products and improving transparency in pricing for healthcare providers and the product supply chain. Chibuzo Opara and his team at DrugStoc are making use of their strong supply chain system to supply health workers in very remote facilities with critical anti-COVID-19 pharmaceutical products.

In addition, the DrugStoc team along with her partners are also launching a #ProtectTheFrontLine Campaign to battle to assist healthcare workers who are finding it increasingly challenging to protect themselves as the global supply chains for basic COVID-19 protection kits are stretched with a 1000% increase in prices in the local markets.

The campaign aims to directly deliver a basic package of health worker COVID-19 protection kits (PPEs, face masks, etc.), to the doorsteps of 20,000 frontline health workers, free of charge, who are either engaged in the COVID-19 response or expected to come in contact with the COVID-19 virus in the next few weeks.

We believe a healthy workforce is a vital component to stemming the tide of the Covid19 pandemic in order to secure lives within the country and globally.” – says Chibuzo Opara, Managing Partner of DrugStoc

Time for Innovation and Heroes is Now

These entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to help Africa emerge from this crisis. As doctors, nurses, and medical professionals are leading the front lines in the health crisis, it will also be up to entrepreneurs to help rebuild the economy and help local communities recover. Omar, Christelle, Temie, and Chibuzo exemplify the core values of ANPI – tenacity, creativity, adaptability, passion and boldness – and are helping to forge ahead by turning challenges into opportunities.

In addition to the ANPI, the Jack Ma Foundation along with the Alibaba Foundation has also committed to donating medical supplies and protective gear to each of the 54 African nations, in addition to launching an online medical consultation platform and publishing a multilingual handbook detailing learnings and best practices for medical professionals as they treat COVID-19 patients.

It is the hope of ANPI that when we look back upon this time of crisis, we will have seen the emergence of a new generation of mission-driven entrepreneurs who have helped pioneer new solutions and innovations.

To that end, the 2nd annual ANPI competition will kick off with a webcast launch on April 6th to encourage entrepreneurs to develop resilience, find an economic lifeline with the Prize, and be heroes for their local communities.

To support/collaborate with these finalists contact them at:

Nawah-Scientific - info@nawah-scientific.com

Water Access Rwanda - info@warwanda.com

Life Bank - hello@lifebank.ng

DrugStoc - info@drugstoc.com