Workers are seen at a clothes factory in the Kenyan town of Kitui on Tuesday. It has begun making personal protective equipment 24 hours a day in response to the coronavirus crisis.

As the novel coronavirus spreads more widely on the continent, African governments are coming up against stiff competition from heavily industrialized economies in bids for masks and other gear. Some are relying almost entirely on donations made by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, who has shipped 6 million masks to Africa, in addition to huge numbers of gloves, swabs, protective suits and even 500 ventilators. Kenya alone says it needs 15 million masks.

“We import everything and produce nothing, despite having all the resources at our disposal.” “Let’s not wait and wonder,” said Charity Ngilu

Kenya has fewer than 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and just one in Kitui County so far. But the county is churning out as many as 30,000 masks a day and selling them to private and public hospitals across the country, which are desperate for them.

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