Businessman Strive Masiyiwa has urged African governments to prioritise healthcare workers, particularly now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where medical practitioners are in the front line.
One way of doing this, Masiyiwa said, was the setting up of a 12-month emergency fund for health workers.
“The fund should pay all healthcare workers a special allowance of not less than 100% their current salary, until this crisis is over,” he explained.
“This has nothing to do with salaries.
“Business and citizens should be encouraged to donate to this fund, provided governments first make their contribution to it.”
Masiyiwa, the Econet group chairman, said it was imperative that health workers be properly remunerated.
“We are asking these people to put their lives on the line,” he said.
“And, as we have seen in China, Europe, and America, many may indeed succumb to this highly infectious disease.
“There is no amount of money which we can put on life.
“But out of appreciation we should pay them their due.”
Masiyiwa urged African governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businesses and ordinary citizens to rush now to ensure that health workers are properly equipped to combat the coronavirus.
“They must each have adequate personal protection equipment (PPE),” he said.
“They should not have to beg for it.”
In addition, Masiyiwa pleaded with retired health workers to return to work and they will be paid from the 12-month fund that the government sets up.
He reiterated that he will pay school fees for life for the children of health workers who die due to coronavirus in Zimbabwe.
To help combat the spread of the coronavirus, particularly among health workers, Masiyiwa said they must be provided with PPE, be regularly tested and that health facilities be equipped with ventilators.
“Africa needs a coordinated approach to securing ventilators.
“We cannot just go out and buy ad hoc whilst powerful nations leave us to the opportunists selling substandard equipment
“Let’s increase testing and make it as easy as getting a pregnancy test.
“It was great to see Jack Ma send us some (testing equipment), but we need, as Africans, to get our own mass testing.
“Each African country must get a million test kits, if we are serious,” he said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared a 21-day lockdown to help combat the spread of the virus, but while this could work in Europe and Asia, Masiyiwa was wary that this could prove difficult in Africa.
He said half of Africa’s urban population lived in conditions that made self isolation impractical.
Furthermore, he urged the need to scale up home based care, as the continent did not have enough hospital beds.
EcoSure, a subsidiary of Masiyiwa’s Econet, has announced that it is equipping medical staff with PPE, providing them with life and health insurance and offering them safe transport to and from work daily, for the coming 12 months.
Higherlife Foundation – which is funded by the Econet group of companies and by Delta Philanthropies, Masiyiwa and his family’s social impact vehicle – has already been supporting hundreds of doctors who signed up to a fellowship scholarship launched late last year.
The fellowship, worth over $100 million, was offered amid a crippling nationwide strike by doctors that had left thousands of patients desperate and stranded.