Did Ebola, the dreaded disease that has claimed scores of lives across West Africa, unite feuding mobile telephony rivals, Econet Wireless International and Airtel Nigeria, the number three mobile phone company by market share in Nigeria?
[su_quote]The Airtel Nigeria CEO’s tightly-clenched fist in the picture does little help to convey whether he eventually accepted the handshake extended by Masiyiwa.[/su_quote]
That is what is seems as Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman of Econet Wireless International (pictured above left) extends a handshake to Mr Segun Ogunsanya, MD & CEO, Airtel Nigeria at an event in Lagos that brought together operators and business moguls across 43 countries in Africa, to ‘Kick Ebola Out of Africa’.
The Airtel Nigeria CEO’s tightly-clenched fist in the picture does little help to convey whether he eventually accepted the handshake extended by Masiyiwa.
Masiyiwa, Chairman of Econet Wireless International and founding technical partner of the Nigerian mobile phone company at formation has filed several lawsuits against shareholders including Bharti Airtel, the new owners challenging the sale of Airtel Nigeria.
But it does appear that the Pan African Ebola initiative offered an evening for the feuding parties to come together to battle a common foe: the dreaded disease virus, Ebola.
The initiative, operating under the hash tag ‘#AfricaAgainstEbola’, will use an SMS dedicated platform to raise funds 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 December 2013. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this is the largest outbreak on the continent, affecting mostly Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Speaking at the launch ceremony held at the Eko Hotels, Lagos, which attracted some of the Nigerian Ebola survivors, CEO and Managing Director of Airtel Nigeria, Ogunsanya, promised Airtel Nigeria’s commitment to the partnership with the African Union on the initiative.
The event attracted other dignitaries like Matthew Willsher, CEO, Etisalat Nigeria; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Group; Masiyiwa, Chairman, Econet Wireless International and Dr Haliru Alhassan, Minister of Health, among others.
According to him, “as a major stakeholder with operations in 17 African countries, we are intensely interested in the communities and people we serve just as we are passionate about creating platforms to uplift the less privileged. This partnership with AU provides a fine opportunity for all of us at Airtel Nigeria to join in kicking Ebola out of Africa”.
Airtel will donate mobile phones, SIM cards and airtime to all the 290 Nigerian doctors, nurses and other care-givers, who have volunteered to join the fight against Ebola, he said.
He urged other private sector organisations to join the telecoms operators in the effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against Ebola, which has brought grief to many families in West Africa.
Commenting on the initiative, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of African Union Commission said that, “We are conscious of the urgent need for all of us to do more, and to act fast. It is only by acting together will we ensure that our continent and world is free of Ebola. Let me repeat our call to all Africans to lead the global efforts of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea”.
The SMS fundraising campaign is using the short code 7979. Airtel customers are required to text ‘Stop Ebola’ to this code in order to donate at the rate of N100 per SMS between now and the end of February 2015. All monies realised from this SMS campaign will be donated totally to the EU Fund set up for this purpose, the mobile phone company said.