SIR Richard Branson intends establishing a "disease control centre" in South Africa by next year and he has President Jacob Zuma on board.
After a meeting at the Union Buildings in Pretoria yesterday Branson said the initiative - explored by his nonprofit organisation Virgin Unite - was expected to be launched by March. It would be funded equally by government and private investment.
Branson said he would try to garner investment from the private sector, but Virgin Unite would be providing the "bulk" of the private investment input.
"Hopefully it will be the start of a new beginning . to get on top of the health problems in South Africa," Branson said.
"Africa does not have one of these centres for disease control and we will hopefully coordinate all of the wonderful organisations that are trying to tackle disease in this country."
Zuma echoed the well-known entrepreneur's ideals, saying that a centre of this nature would benefit sub-Saharan countries.
"We are very happy," Zuma said. "We think it's a good start. We hope many business people will gather here (at the centre) and be ready to help."
Indications were given that centres of a similar kind could be established in other African countries, but at this stage South Africa would act as the hub for the region.
The disease control hub would prioritise the fight against HIV-Aids, tuberculosis, diabetes and other health concerns in southern Africa.
"Health is a key priority for the government and a disease control hub is an innovative and needed resource to help strengthen our health system and health information," Zuma said.
Branson said he was pleased that the government was on board.
The disease control hub is a critical initiative to help stop needless suffering from disease that have killed large numbers of people and hampered the growth of this incredible country." - Sapa