African telcos partner with AU to ‘kick Ebola out of Africa’

Telecommunication companies across Africa have united to partner with the African Union (AU) Commission to garner resources in support of Ebola affected countries in West Africa. The initiative, known as ‘The Ebola Solidarity Campaign ‘will use an SMS dedicated platform to raise funds from citizens for the deployment of African health workers to affected countries.

Ebola has claimed over 5,000 lives across some parts of West Africa since it was first reported in Guinea in March 2014. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this is the largest outbreak on the continent and is currently prevalent in four countries – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali. There have been isolated outbreaks in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Senegal, although these countries have been subsequently declared free of the disease.

At a recent Business Roundtable on Ebola hosted by the AU, telecom operators committed to efforts by unveiling an Africa-wide campaign dubbed “United Against Ebola”. It will focus on donations from the various customers of the Telcos, and the funds realised from the campaign, which will span three months, will be channelled into fighting the Ebola Virus.

Commenting on the initiative, African Union Chairman, His Excellency Yayi Boni of the Benin Republic, said: “We are delighted to partner the Telcos in this effort. The Ebola outbreak presents a major problem for the continent and threatens to derail great economic strides that have been achieved by the affected countries.

“We cannot afford to look on and do nothing. We believe that with the support of the private sector we can collectively fight this disease that seeks to attack the very fabric of the African continent”.According to Afrobarometer, more people across Africa have access to a mobile phone network than they do to electricity, piped water, or to health clinics.

“Mobile technology remains the most powerful communications platform that provides an important channel for reaching large numbers of the population. By relying on this strength, this campaign offers us an opportunity to collectively support countries affected by this deadly disease,” said Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi.“Harnessing the power of mobile phones has already produced remarkable results in other disaster situations. This cross-geography partnership between telecommunication companies is an ideal opportunity to harness our collective ability to drive action beyond traditional borders,” said Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO.

“This collaboration will provide an opportunity for millions of our mobile phone subscribers to be part of the fight against Ebola by donating funds through our networks. This will provide the much needed resources to find a lasting solution for those affected,” said Vincent Lobry, Orange CEO.

The AU will partner with Airtel Africa, Orange, Vodacom, MTN and Safaricom to raise funds from a potential 300 million subscribers that will ultimately go towards improving responsiveness to the disease. The SMS fund-raising campaign will use the short code 7979 across the continent and requires customers to text ‘Stop Ebola ’to this code in order to donate in their respective countries. Telcos from 41 countries are participating in this campaign.

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