Africa's largest mobile operators create emergency fund to fight Ebola

Africa’s largest mobile operators have created an emergency fund to which their subscribers can donate $1 each to help deal with the deadly Ebola virus.

MTN, Airtel, Vodacom Group, Econet International and Safaricom are joining forces to raise money to fight the Ebola virus, which according to the latest World Health Organization figures has so far claimed about 5,000 lives. In its latest update, WHO said there had been more than 13,000 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in West Africa since the epidemic began earlier this year.

“Ebola is not an African problem, it is a global problem that has to be fought by African owned companies and global companies active in Africa,” said Econet International CEO Steve Masiyiwa.

The mobile operator initiative is the first time that such a program has been set up across major regional networks to raise much-needed financial resources. The African Union Commission has appealed to the telecom companies and other companies to help raise money to fight the disease.

The mobile operator program is expected to come into effect Dec. 1 and raise more than $50 million.

The Ebola virus has continued to ravage the West African region with no signs of abating. This week, Mali reported the death of a nurse who worked at a private clinic, following the treatment of a patient from Guinea who showed signs of Ebola.

No cases of Ebola have so far been reported in Southern and East Africa, however.

Last week, the Africa Union Commission called for a meeting with the operators and some private companies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the idea of raising money to fight Ebola. The commission said the money raised by the operators will be deployed within the framework of the Africa Union Support to Ebola in West Africa program, in close coordination with the national taskforces in the Ebola-affected countries and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.

MTN said it has over 219 million customers across Africa and the Middle East and that it will not be difficult for it to raise money in a three-month campaign dubbed “United Against Ebola.”

MTN also said it is working with some of Africa’s most celebrated musicians to produce an inspirational song for digital download on its MTN Play store. The operator said all proceeds from sales, post publishing rights and subscription payments will be given to the African Union Commission for the campaign.

“MTN is supporting this campaign to give impetus to concerted efforts aimed at combating the Ebola epidemic and serving lives. As MTN we believe the only way to start reversing the outbreak is to come together to tackle the spread of the disease,” said MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa in a statement Thursday.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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