African and global philanthropists have come together to expedite the availability of critical medical equipment, including ventilators and breathing support devices in Africa, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The effort is led by Higherlife Foundation co-founder Strive Masiyiwa along with philanthropists Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Skoll.

Masiyiwa was recently appointed as an African Union Special Envoy to mobilise the private sector response to Covid-19 health crisis in Africa.

As part of the initiative, the group will start with the production of 1,000 bridge ventilators, which will be offered to healthcare facilities at a lower price than standard ventilators.

The ventilator design, which recently received emergency use authorisation (EA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was donated to the partnership by Virgin Orbit.

Strive Masiyiwa said: “We have found a major South African company called 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. This is a not-for-profit venture for us as philanthropists.”

The team is also in talks with Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company for the production of an oxygen helmet prototype in partnership with Nasa Armstrong Flight Research Centre and the Aerospace Valley Task Force in California.

An online platform to manage global procurement of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), is also part of the effort. It is expected to be launched in partnership with the Africa CDC towards the end of the month.

In 2014-2016, the African Union partnered with a range of global organisations to contain the Ebola outbreak and save lives.