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Coronavirus | 'These are tough times, and they require dramatic action' – Naspers CEO

Mar 31 2020 13:18
Lameez Omarjee
bob van dijk

Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk at the listing of Prosus on the Euronext exchange in Amsterdam.

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Naspers will be making available some of its facilities to be used for public health services in vulnerable communities, to assist government's efforts to manage the Covid-19 crisis.

This is in addition to the R1.5 billion donation the company has made to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the country, as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening.

Speaking to Fin24 by phone on Tuesday, Group CEO Bob van Dijk and Naspers SA CEO Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa shared more details on the R1.5 billion donation.

Part of the donation, R500 million, will go towards the Solidarity Response Fund, which was set up by government as independent relief to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Naspers will also buy R1 billion worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies in China, in partnership with the Chinese government and Tencent – in which Naspers holds a 31% stake.

"We realised these are tough times and they require dramatic action, which is why we wanted to contribute," Van Dijk said of the donation.

Van Dijk explained that across the world where the Covid-19 has spread, there is a generally a shortage of medical equipment, which is why Naspers decided to procure the PPEs and medical supplies.

"It is really essential to keep staff that is working in the health services safe. We have good connections in China, including through our partner Tencent. We thought it might be easier to just give money, but we can do more by actually tapping into those networks and getting to South Africa what is needed most in this crisis," said Van Dijk.

Naspers will procure and distribute the medical supplies, and it is engaging with authorities on what is needed to make sure the right equipment is sourced, he added. Aware of the global demand for these supplies, Van Dijk said that Naspers had engaged with its partners to make sure the supplies could be sourced within a short time frame. The process is still being finalised.

"In addition to the capital and equipment we are bringing in, we have also made facilities available," said Mahanyele-Dabengwa. Two of these facilities are Naspers Labs, the group's youth development programme. The facilities are located in Cape Town – in suburbs Khayelitsha and Philippi and could potentially be used for public health purposes to serve affected communities in these areas.

Government is also interested in the facilities in Alexandra near Sandton, added Mahanyele-Dabengwa.

"I really think this is a time for us to work together… It is good to see more South Africans coming together. At Naspers we are keen to make sure we can do as much as we can," said Mahanyele-Dabengwa.

* Fin24 is part of Media24, a subsidiary of Naspers 

naspers  |  bob van dijk  |  covid-19  |  coronavirus  |  sa economy
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