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Local heroes celebrated as Africa Medical Supplies Platform is launched

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Local heroes celebrated as Africa Medical Supplies Platform is launched

The Virgin Orbit Ventilators, which will be produced by Invicta Holdings.
The Virgin Galactic Oxygen Helmets, which will also be produced by Invicta Holdings.

19th June 2020

By: Simone Liedtke
Writer

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The Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), to which local company Invicta Holdings is a key supplier, is now officially live as part of a continent-wide effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a virtual briefing on June 18, South African President and African Union (AU) chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa officiated the launch of the online platform that enables the procurement, coordination and distribution of Covid-19 medical supplies for all AU member States.

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According to the President, the online platform will be “the glue that will bind the continent together”.

The development of this pool procurement platform has been necessitated by the exponential growth in Covid-19 cases and deaths on the continent, which have been exacerbated by the shortages of key supplies and the need, at continental level, to procure equipment to prevent the further spread of the virus.

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The platform, used through five easy steps, makes it possible for governments and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to place orders for diagnostic test kits, clinical management and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Once a vaccine is available, it will be added to the portal in line with the AU’s stated commitment to ensure there is “equitable access to any form of life saving medication”.

Afrieximbank will facilitate payments, while logistics partners will expedite delivery.

The online platform was developed under the leadership of AU Special Envoy Strive Masiyiwa on behalf of the AU’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Ramaphosa referred to the online platform as “the Amazon of coronavirus resources on the African continent”, which will place a particular focus on small businesses and large industries across the continent as part of laying another building block towards the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

The launch of the AfCFTA was delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and Ramaphosa is hopeful that the platform will provide a lifeline to African suppliers and manufacturers while ushering in “a new era of inter-African cooperation”.

Many businesses across the continent will now also be able to repurpose their operations by converting their business to producing PPE.

Meanwhile, Masiyiwa provided more clarity on the creation and inner workings of the platform, which is available in the four working languages of the AU – English, Arabic, French and Portuguese.

When visiting the platform, buyers will find a weekly showcase of African products, as well as an African equivalent for products available outside of the continent.

A chat feature is also available to provide further assistance.

According to Masiyiwa, more than 200 suppliers are already listed on the platform and “more are applying to join every day”.

Among the suppliers already listed, Masiyiwa highlighted JSE-listed hardware company Invicta Holdings and Engineering Solutions Group (ESG) Medical Equipment, one of the manufacturers which has agreed to sell medical equipment through the AMSP.

Invicta also took up the challenge to produce 10 000 ventilators for Africa. Invicta Holdings director and ESG Group CEO Gavin Pelser shared that “Invicta Holdings chairperson Dr Christo Wiese, has personally committed to various initiatives with the objective of minimising the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the potential devastating outcome on the people of Africa.”

According to Pelser, Dr Wiese “is proud to be part of this great initiative, working with Richard, Strive and Jeff [Skoll] to procure specialized equipment designed by the best engineers in the world from Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic. Invicta will deliver high quality manufacturing of this world-class product in Africa for the people of Africa, through our ESG Medical business unit (a division of ESG).

The ventilator comes from a free design provided by philanthropist Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, a subsidiary of the Virgin Group.

The design has also received emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The initiative partners are also in discussions with Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company regarding an oxygen helmet prototype.

The helmet will be produced in partnership with National Aeronautics and Space Administration Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Aerospace Valley Task Force, both in California, pending the granting of emergency use authorisation by the FDA.

Oxygen helmets help open up the alveoli in the lungs and delay or prevent Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

“We have found a major South African company - Invicta Holdings - that can mass produce these bridge ventilators and oxygen helmets. Any country that wants them can buy them at cost from that company,” Masiyiwa said earlier this week.

In this regard, Invicta is looking forward to working with other stakeholders to procure specialised equipment designed by some of the best engineers in the world from Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic.

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