Philanthropists are teaming up to help African nations secure urgently needed ventilators, as well as other breathing support and medical equipment, in the battle against Covid-19.

African Union special envoy Strive Masiyiwa is leading a private partnership to start local manufacturing of the equipment. Working with Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and former eBay president Jeff Skoll, the group has identified two solutions that will be manufactured in South Africa.

The initiative will start with the production of 1,000 bridge ventilators, a design that was provided to this partnership for free by Virgin Orbit and has recently received Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Initial orders are now being secured.

The partners are also in discussions with Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company regarding oxygen helmet prototypes produced in partnership with NASA and the Aerospace Valley Task Force, pending FDA EUA.

Masiyiwa has also pulled together a team to build an online platform to manage global procurement of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, which is set to launch in partnership with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention before the end of May.