A week ago, Josephine Wambua spent her days stitching gardening clothes. This week, the factory where she works transformed into an all-out effort to make 30,000 surgical masks a day in a country that barely produced any before. The factory’s shift in production reflects a dire need for even the most basic protective equipment here. Like Kenya, most African countries have little experience manufacturing medical supplies, instead relying on imports from China and foreign aid. But as the coronavirus spreads more widely on the continent, African governments are coming up against stiff competition from heavily industrialized economies in bids for masks and other gear. Some are relying almost entirely on donations made by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, who has shipped 6 million masks to Africa, in addition to huge numbers of gloves, swabs, protective suits and even 500 ventilators. Kenya alone says it needs 15 million masks. African countries are not the only ones struggling to provide enough masks for their health workers – nor is Africa the only place receiving millions of them from China. But while wealthier countries are counting on huge corporations to bridge the supply gap, others are turning to humbler means.
SOURCE: WASHINGTON POST