By Chris Bishop
Five million South Africans could soon be shielding themselves from COVID-19 thanks to the disease-fighting Solidarity Fund, but small businesses can pretty much forget it.
The Solidarity Fund, driven by the business community and independent from government, has raised R500 million in a week to help ward off COVID-19, its administrators told journalists over a webcast. The money, to be administered by Africa’s biggest insurer Old Mutual, will be aimed largely at helping poor households weather the storm.
One of the first actions of the fund will be to buy five million masks and gloves from China. CNBC Africa asked the fund administrators whether they were worried by reports that some face masks made in China had been found defective and returned.
“We are absolutely award of this issue and the Solidarity Fund is consulting with the Department of Health here and will carry out the utmost diligence in making the purchase,” says Nicola Galombik is executive director of Yellowwoods, the investment holding company, who is working with the fund.
But whereas masks will soon be on their way,small business is unlikely to see much protection from the fund. Banker Martin Kingston, who is also helping to launch the fund, said the fund was not going to be giving financing or soft loans to small business.
“We simply don’t have the capacity,” says Kingston.
The fund is casting its net widely. Veteran entrepreneur Gloria Serobe, one of the founders of the investment company Wiphold, said the fund was hoping for donations from far as well as near.
”The Solidarity Fund is looking for help from anywhere in the world..Overseas contributions are pretty much welcome and encouraged,” says Serobe.