After a three-month lockdown due to COVID-19, South Africa’s school system began reopening in early June. A South African paper company has become an unlikely partner in helping ensure that students and teachers have access to protective face coverings that are critical to slowing the spread of the virus.

Peter Kohnert, managing director at Webprinter Online Printing, said the company developed its 1millionsmiles initiative to support schools that most needed protective equipment, with the goal of providing one million face shields to students and teachers. In one week, the Cape Town-based online printing store distributed 15,000 face shields to 30 schools.

“We wanted to help,” said Peter. “We saw reports that up to 80 percent of schools had no protection, so we reached out to schools.”

The shields cover the entire face but incorporate a clear window for students to look — and smile — through at their teachers and peers. Through partnerships with its suppliers, Webprinter produces the disposable face shields at a cost of R10, or roughly 50 cents in US dollars.

The company’s statement on the initiative said, “We will beat this crisis by standing together. Keeping our educators safe is critical, and our colorful disposable face shields have been specifically designed with them in mind.”

Webprinter is a client of Accion partner Lulalend, South Africa’s first online automated provider of short-term funding for small and medium enterprises. Lulalend has quickly adapted to support their small business clients coping with the effects of the pandemic. They are addressing client concerns on a case-by-case basis, restructuring loans and extending payment terms as needed. Lulalend also set up a Facebook page for their clients to connect with other struggling business owners and share their experiences.

“It’s been encouraging to see small businesses like Webprinter Online Printing step forward to play a role in the response to COVID-19,” said Trevor Gosling, CEO of Lulalend. “We’re incredibly inspired by the team’s commitment to protecting schoolchildren and fighting the spread of coronavirus.”

Small businesses like Webprinter are essential partners for communities as they start reopening and rebuilding from the effects of COVID-19. Financial service providers like Lulalend that focus on reaching underserved families and small businesses can provide crucial support for these vulnerable groups as they seek to adapt and thrive in a new normal.

Explore More


Exploring Equitable AI and Financial Inclusion 


Applications of AI in inclusive fintech


Transforming fintech with AI


The top three challenges facing leaders in inclusive finance

Tin and Noy, owners of Yummie Thai Kitchen food truck

Tech fuels growth for these food truck owners