Global Tech

Texting to Stop Ebola: African Telecoms Launch SMS Fundraiser

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In the fight against Ebola, African telecoms are asking cell phone users to text to save lives. Partnering with the African Union Commission, 41 telecommunications companies across the continent have launched the “United Against Ebola” campaign, an SMS initiative that raises money from every user who texts “Stop Ebola” to 7979.

Rwanda is one of the latest countries to join the campaign, which began Dec. 1 and runs through February 2015. Service providers Airtel Rwanda, Tigo Rwanda, and MTN Rwanda announced their participation at a press conference last week, explaining that every “Stop Ebola” text sent in Rwanda will raise Rwf150, or about U.S. $0.22, for the cause.

“Mobile communication remains the most powerful communications tool providing reach to larger populations,” said Airtel Rwanda Managing Director Teddy Bhullar, according to East African Business Week. “The use of mobile phones for this campaign offers an opportunity to Rwandans to collectively support countries affected by this deadly disease as well as drive action beyond borders.”

The remaining 38 telecoms of the United Against Ebola initiative include other national branches of Airtel, Tigo, and MTN, as well as Orange, Vodacom, and Safaricom. Together, they are urging each and every mobile user to donate, tapping into a collective subscriber base of nearly 300 million. “Today we are not competitors, rather citizens of one global community fighting a war,” said Vodacom’s Rosalynn Mworia. Added Yayi Boni, president of Benin and former chairman of the AU. “We cannot afford to look on and do nothing.”

Despite falling short of worst-case predictions, the Ebola virus continues to devastate Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and remains a major humanitarian crisis that demands worldwide attention and aid. As wealthy nations and corporations around the globe come under fire for not donating enough, African countries like Tanzania, Benin, and Kenya are trying to do their part. Each of them has enlisted in the United Against Ebola campaign. Each of them, too, ranks among the world’s 35 poorest nations, according to The World Bank.

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