DURBAN – An estimated 2 billion people lack access to basic medicines partly because they live in remote locations. To help solve this problem, drone company Zipline has pioneered medical deliveries to rural communities in Rwanda and Ghana.
In Benin, a dozen entrepreneurs are developing ideas to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic, from masks to 3D-printed protective gear, with financial and technical support from a government-United Nations taskforce launched in April.
“Because it hasn’t been easy to import goods into the country, we have to take a hard look at what we can produce locally,” said Claude Bona, head of Seme City, the government’s innovation and entrepreneurship centre, co-leading the project.
“With coronavirus cases still rising in Africa, digital networks have proven crucial in keeping economic activity going. As disease-wary customers shun open-air markets, food sellers using Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have seen a surge in demand, “said Rumbidzai Mbambo, 27, founder of Quickfresh, one of the newest Zimbabwean online grocery start-ups.
Mbambo set up the company in April after seeing that a government-imposed lockdown had left smallholder farmers stranded with fresh produce while people stuck at home could not buy food.
“The pandemic has redefined our way of life and our business model suits the low-touch new (environment),” she said, adding that the business has attracted more than 60 clients in its first two months.
In Kenya, charities are boosting economies in poor communities by using a blockchain-backed local currency to provide slum-dwellers with emergency aid on their mobile phones which they can spend on local goods and services.
Grace Hellen, a 53-year-old tailor in Nairobi’s Mukuru informal settlement, saw her monthly income plunge when the virus struck in March as customers stopped coming to her shop.
The 620 Sarafu – about $6 – a week she receives supplements the small stipend of $19 she earns as a volunteer community healthcare worker and enables her to buy essentials like kerosene for cooking and beans.
“Life would be more difficult without this, not only for me but the community as a whole because many people are going through the same challenges,” said the mother of five.
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