Big Win’s Actions on COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is placing significant pressure on governments around the world. As our government partners across Africa work to minimize the negative health, human development and economic impact of COVID-19 on their populations, Big Win is supporting them to methodically assess their policy options and deploy political capital and resources in a manner that best considers the totality of consequences.

We are providing support in three key areas:

  • Supporting countries to resolve immediate procurement shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and related supplies, and to transition, where rational, to local production;
  • Reviewing and helping to upgrade national plans for tackling the coronavirus crisis, with a particular focus on scenario planning; and
  • Establishing high-level communications protocols and developing context-specific strategies for disseminating crucial public health messaging.

You can learn more about our efforts in each of these areas below.

Procurement and production of personal protective equipment (PPE)

There is a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and many countries across Africa are struggling to access an adequate supply. While international organizations like the World Health Organization and UNICEF are working to address this challenge, costs and delivery timelines remain significant hurdles for many countries.

We are supporting our partners to procure PPE produced abroad and to facilitate a shift to domestic manufacturing capacity to produce PPE locally, where strategic.

Procurement of PPE

In order to address immediate shortages, we are facilitating introductions for our African government partners to reputable international providers with capacity to supply PPE.

We are working collaboratively with international partners to help ensure that efficient pooled procurement is accessible for African countries. These mechanisms can help countries to achieve economies of scale and improve their bargaining power.
Based on the analysis of PPE needs, we are also supporting our partners in their planning efforts.

Finally, we are supporting our partners in accessing financing for PPE procurement and facilitating guarantees, where needed, so that procurement can go forward while funding is being disbursed.

Local production of PPE

Across the continent, governments are also exploring the potential to shift domestic manufacturing capacity towards the production of PPE—and potentially diagnostics or pharmaceuticals—as a cost-effective solution for meeting local demand. We are working with our partners to evaluate how and where such investments can support both the immediate response to COVID-19 as well as advance sustained job creation and health systems strengthening. Our shared goal is to optimize any investments in domestic manufacturing capacity to create “double wins” and leverage, rather than simply meet COVID-19 supply needs.

On the private sector side, the interest in working with governments toward this aim is clear. In many African countries, clothing and textile manufacturers are experiencing falling demand for products they typically supply to international markets. Many are interested in shifting their production capacity towards making personal protective equipment in order to contribute to the fight against coronavirus, retain employees, and assist in keeping their national economies afloat. However, manufacturers that don’t have experience providing medical grade PPE need support going through the certification process and implementing new quality controls. To this end, Big Win is helping to forge relationships between international companies with experience manufacturing PPE and our government partners in Africa in order to provide local companies with resources and technical assistance they need to repurpose their production lines.

In Ethiopia, Big Win is working with the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) and government agencies including the Ministry of Health, the Prime Minister’s office, and the Ethiopian Industrial Park Development Corporation. Together, we are supporting Ethiopian manufacturers who are looking to begin or scale up their PPE production, finding ways to aid in filling the gaps in knowledge, network, and finance.

Given the investment required, governments and their private sector partners need to have a clear understanding of the market, both during the pandemic and in the longer term.

To support them, we are commissioning a landscape analysis study to help assess the economic rationality of making investments in the domestic production of PPE and related medical equipment in sub-Saharan Africa. The analysis will allow our partners to determine which products can be produced, with a reasonable investment, at competitive global prices and quality standards, and where there is significant unmet demand in the global market.

After identifying those products, the analysis should advise as to whether (a) production of the products will result in short- and long-term domestic job creation; and (b) whether the production of the goods locally will significantly impact the ability of African health systems to respond effectively to this crisis and on a general basis going forward. This analysis will initially be used by our partners in Ethiopia, and will also be shared with partners in Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique and beyond.

Reviewing and helping to upgrade national plans

In response to our partners’ requests for assistance in scenario planning, we are working with them to review and upgrade their national plans for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two factors are critical in governments’ responses to COVID-19. The first is containing and, if possible, stopping the transmission of the virus. The second is addressing the pandemic’s economic and social impact. In order to achieve this dual aim, it is essential that countries’ COVID-19 response planning is multi-sectoral and thoughtfully considers their respective context as well as the health, education, food security and economic implications of policy decisions.

While populations worldwide are being drastically affected by COVID-19, the impact can be felt even more intensely in low income countries, where economic recession can prove deadly. When the economy shuts down and there isn’t a robust safety net in place, malnutrition can quickly follow, exacerbating the pandemic’s impact on public health. Other negative social implications, such as disruption to education, can also have a lasting impact on countries’ economic growth and the productive capacity of their populations.

Big Win is working on context-specific analyses that will help governments decide how best to manage the challenges posed by the pandemic. These will look at the current trajectory of the data on the virus in each country and the implications of various measures to combat it in terms of the aggregate impact on public health, the economy and progressing other development goals.

This kind of analysis will enable countries to look at their specific dynamics and take the public health measures that most effectively contain the virus and minimize additional aggregate deaths, without unintentionally causing more damage in terms of mortality and economic damage than warranted.

We are currently working with our partners in several countries to build out a model that supports this type of estimation and scenario planning, and we are pursuing collaborations with other partners across the continent.

Establishing high-level communications protocols and context-specific strategies

In addition to the operational challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis, it is also raising the stakes for government communications. Critical public health messages must be disseminated in a way that ensures a consistent and authoritative source of reliable, factual information and that promotes behavior change without creating mass panic.

Big Win is working to assist public sector leaders at the municipal, state and federal levels in countries across Africa as they develop and implement their coronavirus communications strategies.

We developed a memorandum detailing key principles and guidance for governments, which included strategies for understanding key audiences, developing effective behavior change communication materials, and combatting fake news, among other areas.

We are working closely with the Ethiopian government and have offered support to other partners in countries including Ghana, Mozambique, and Nigeria.

Collaboration with other funders and international organizations

Effectively combatting the coronavirus pandemic in Africa will require unprecedent levels of collaboration between national governments, regional organizations, and international partners. To that end, we are actively engaging with other funders to coordinate our efforts and amplify our collective impact.

Our Founding Chair and President Jamie Cooper is also participating in the African Union’s (AU) private sector task force on COVID-19. Big Win is eager to ensure that our efforts with countries best leverage the work of the task force to establish continent-wide efficiencies to enable countries to access needed commodities, deploy financial resources, and ease transport and other logistics. We have also been building from the work of other foundations, most notably Bloomberg Philanthropies.

If you would like to learn more about our efforts or discuss potential partnerships, please get in touch.