Over a hundred thousand locally produced COVID-19 masks are helping to save lives in a high need area in the Western Cape, thanks to an innovative partnership between the U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the British High Commission in Pretoria to support local production of COVID-19 supplies in South Africa. The UK channelled half a million Pounds (approximately 10.7 million Rands) through the U.S. government and USAID to the Project Last Mile Initiative – a pioneering public-private partnership that leverages its deep private sector experience learned from Coca-Cola’s business model in Africa to share distribution, logistics, and marketing expertise.

“For the U.S. government, successful partnerships make all the difference—our relationships with our private sector partners and host country governments, like the Western Cape Provincial Government, are critical to achieving results. We believe that USAID must work across public and private sectors, bringing stakeholders together to tackle global problems,” said USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick.

Nigel Casey, British High Commissioner noted, “The pandemic has highlighted the reliance in so many countries on imports of vital medical supplies and protective equipment from other countries. As the UK, we are glad to be able to support the local production of personal protective equipment as one of the core requests from the South African Government to Development Partners but also as a way to inject vital cash and technical assistance into small and medium enterprises. This helps to safeguard and create jobs, especially for women, and support South Africa’s economic recovery.”

Phil Roberts, Project Last Mile country lead in South Africa commented, “Project Last Mile is delighted to have been able to facilitate support to such worthy projects as UbuntuCare. This is a great example of an initiative that can help to meet a care need in the fight against COVID-19 while also providing employment opportunities for women in an impoverished community.”

One of the first manufacturers to be selected for the project was UbuntuCare, a public-private partnership between the Western Cape Government Department of Health and local organizations.

Dr Nomafrench Mbomobo, the Western Cape Minister of Health, said “This public-private initiative was established to produce quality cloth masks in order to donate them freely to the vulnerable people. The partners include Western Cape on Wellness (WoW!), The Health Foundation, Coconut Jazz, the Infection Control Africa Network (ICAN), and community seamstress networks. The partners are dependent on donations, sales and/or orders from the private sector and the public. All proceeds from sales are used to purchase fabric and to pay the community seamstress networks, such as the one based in Grabouw. Simple things such as wearing a mask can save us and protect others. Let’s commit to doing the right thing by the wearing of masks in public.”

“It has been a privilege to work on a project that has made a substantive difference to people who were already in dire need, and for whom COVID-19 was a crushing blow. This project has literally enabled people to have access to food and electricity, and in the process of working in these communities, we have identified multiple ways to sustain UbuntuCare beyond masks with projects that uplift communities in general, and more specifically women,” said Fiona Hoadley from UbuntuCare.

To celebrate this initiative a virtual event was held on October 6th at 3:30.

This initiative is part of both the US and UK governments wider support to South Africa’s COVID-19 response.