Alibaba founder Jack Ma posted on his freshly minted Twitter account on Monday that he is donating through his charity foundation testing kits and masks to countries afflicted by Covid-19 including the US, all of Africa, Italy, and Spain.

Why it matters: Ma’s move follows other tech billionaires in offering help to countries affected by Covid-19, but has also given him the most positive publicity he has seen in a while.

  • Ma developed a cult-like devotion in Alibaba employees and aspiring entrepreneurs around the world, but has fallen out of the spotlight since stepping down from Alibaba’s helm in September.

Details: A donation of 500,000 Covid-19 testing kits and 1 million protective face masks to the US was already underway, according to Ma’s first tweet on Monday which has drawn nearly 430,000 likes as of Tuesday morning. The Jack Ma Foundation said it plans to deploy similar aid to Japan, Korea, Italy, and Spain.

  • The Jack Ma Foundation will be sending 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 medical use protective suits and face shields to the capital of Ethiopia. The government in the capital city of Addis Ababa has agreed to distribute them among the 54 African countries, Ma said.
  • An undisclosed amount of medical supplies donated by the Foundation arrived in Belgium yesterday. Part of the supplies will be sent to Italy, which counts the most Covid-19 confirmed cases outside China.
  • “Unity is strength,” was the message attached to the supplies, written in French, German and Chinese.
  • Cainiao Network, Alibaba’s logistics arm, will be operating five flights to Europe per week to deliver aid to the EU, according to the foundation.

Context: Jack Ma donated RMB 100 million (approximately $14.3 million) to two Chinese companies working on Covid-19 vaccines and RMB 1 billion for medical supplies to central Hubei province, where the virus was first reported.

  • The Alibaba founder faced online criticism in May 2019 after expressing support for the “9-9-6” work schedule and then encouraging employees to perform daily sexual activity on top of that.
  • There are more than 3,800 confirmed cases in the US, but this number may increase drastically once testing for the virus is widely available. Testing kits are in short supply and have been criticized for accuracy flaws.
  • Europe has emerged as the new epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak. As of March 17, confirmed cases in Italy number more than 24,000 and Spain more than 9,000 while France and Germany each exceed 6,000.
  • Africa has remained largely unaffected by the virus, but the continent is bracing for an outbreak as 30 out of 54 countries now have cases.
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates has pledged to donate $100 million for the global fight against the current novel coronavirus, including $50 million to scientists researching Covid-19 treatments and vaccines.

Eliza is TechNode's community listening reporter at the Shanghai office. She acts as a link between the editorial team and TechNode Squared members. She holds a Double MSc in Global Media and Communications... More by Eliza Gkritsi