March 21, 2020: Following the discussions between Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, and Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed Ali regarding the distribution of critical supplies to combat the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus) to all African countries, Ethiopian Airlines has decided to operate a B777F on March 22. The freighter from Guangzhou, China to Ethiopian capital will carry 108 tonnes, which includes 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks, face shields, and 60,000 protective suits. Later, the supplies will be redistributed from Addis Ababa to 54 countries on the continent Ahmed Ali managing the logistics and distribution of these supplies.

Ethiopian already operates flights to Guangzhou and plans to expand operations by increasing the frequency to twice daily. Before the flights were halted due to Covid-19, Ethiopian operated daily passenger flights from Addis Ababa to Guangzhou and Beijing.

In its ongoing efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and provide aid to afflicted communities across the globe, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have committed to sending medical supplies, including masks and test kits, to the US, Africa, Spain, Slovenia, and France.

Access to timely and accurate information is essential in a time of crisis, especially as Ethiopia simply does not have the infrastructure to cope with a coronavirus outbreak. The new virus risks adding significant pressure to already strained health systems.

In January this year, Ahmed Ali has launched Ethiopia Electronic Single Window Project (eSW), which connects 16 regulatory agencies to enhance efficiency in the trade logistics landscape of the country by speeding the customs process for importers and exporters. The move follows after the government signed three agreements in November 2019 with Alibaba Group to join the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), an Alibaba-led initiative that aims to lower barriers to global trade for small and medium-sized enterprises through e-commerce.

In the same month, Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing partnered to deliver much-needed aid supplies to organisations across Ethiopia. The airline took delivery of a new B787 Dreamliner from North Charleston, South Carolina in December 2019 and loaded the jet with 34,000 pounds of books and 5,800 pounds of school supplies, clothing, and medical supplies for the flight home to Addis Ababa.

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