This pandemic is the biggest global crisis in a generation. No one could have predicted the dramatic spread of the virus and the devastation it would cause on global markets, economic growth, and the disruption on lives, livelihoods, communities and supply chains. The call has never been louder for humanity to "lean in and provide support for and each other to do the right thing imperfectly", as prominent businesswomen Ann Francke said in a recent op-ed about corporate governance during COVID-19.
Governments around the world have announced fiscal, economic and social interventions to bolster their economies and provide a safety net for the most economically vulnerable. All the while COVID-19 is already overwhelming some of the most advanced health systems in the world and threatens to do the same to every country in its path.
All concerns turn to the state of readiness and capacity of health systems to combat the disease. In order to protect our critical frontline healthcare workers, all countries, including ours, need to ensure they have access to the appropriate medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Adequate production and distribution of these supplies has become critical in caring for patients and essential workers as we all fight the spread of this pandemic. These shortages have been attributed to the mounting disruptions on global supply chains as exports grind to a halt. This has led to countries having to mobilise, source and build capacity locally.
In our own country, a Business for South Africa (B4SA) workgroup on Public Health called on all South African businesses to reserve medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) for use in the national healthcare sector. This critical stock should be for the sole use of our frontline doctors, nurses and community health care workers; to protect them in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. B4SA has been working in partnership with Government and labour to supplement global sourcing with efforts to boost local manufacturing and production of critical necessities.
It is with much pride and determination that South African businesses heeded this call by demonstrating their agility, coming together in solidarity with Government, to provide the resources to minimise the impact on public health. Various companies in the country are working on manufacturing foreign designed products on South African soil or even developing new ones. Several of these initiatives include the cooperation of industries that do not usually produce medical equipment, such as the automotive sectors and even arms manufacturers.
The South African Breweries (SAB) accepted this challenge and immediately put its existing operations, infrastructure and human resources to work in an effort to help address the procurement needs of our healthcare sector. This has included the donation of hand sanitisers, face shields and face masks.
To ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical devices and medical equipment, SAB has also seconded 15 highly skilled employees to assist B4SA who supported Government in building a toolkit to provide technical guidance of priority medical devices as well as forecasting supplies. The toolkit will include processes to identify medical equipment needs to ensure quality, capacity and capability standards are in alignment with global standards.
Together, we are in the midst of one of the most trying moments within our collective memory. The COVID-19 crisis has challenged each of us – as individuals, families, communities and teams – in so many unprecedented ways. We all share in a common concern regarding the health and wellbeing not only of ourselves, our friends and our families – but also that of South Africa, for which we have proudly called home for 125 years.
So, if you can help, you should. If you need help, we will be there for you. Corporate South Africa will never give up on Mzansi.