Millions of face masks and coronavirus detection kits - donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma - arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday (March 22) as the number of cases in Africa rose above 1,100.
Though the advance of COVID-19 has been slower than in Europe and Asia, the disease now has a foothold in most countries on the continent and there have been dozens of deaths.
Ethiopian Health Minister Dr Lia Tadesse said being able to test for coronavirus was key to controlling the outbreak.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ETHIOPIAN MINISTER OF HEALTH, LIA TADESSE, SAYING:
"Because as much as you detect, that's when you can contain this outbreak."
The supplies will be distributed across the continent - with countries particularly vulnerable to the pandemic receiving theirs first.
The Jack Ma Foundation said the cargo plane carried 5.4 million face masks, over one million detection kits, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and over 60,000 protective face shields.
Some African healthcare systems were already stretched before the coronavirus crisis and John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control, said COVID-19 is a "looming disaster" for the region and must be taken seriously.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) AFRICA CENTRES FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (AFRICA CDC) DIRECTOR, JOHN NKENGASONG, SAYING:
"We have to win the battle against COVID in Africa because it is going to be devastating, on humanitarian side, on the economic side and the security side. This is a serious challenge for the continent."
The Jack Ma Foundation said more supplies would be sent via Ethiopia in the coming weeks.