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Published On: Wed, Sep 24th, 2014

Time for business to get involved in Africa Ebola battle – AFDB chief

West African nations hit by the Ebola virus epidemic will need international help to rebuild for years to come and it is time for mining companies and business to get involved, the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) said on Tuesday.

Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever, has killed 2,811 people since March this year in an epidemic centred around the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The outbreak has reverberated throughout the three countries’ economies, hampering mining, disrupting the farming and service sectors and prompting airline operators to suspend flights and expatriate workers to evacuate.

“I would like to see business step forward – where are the mining companies just now?” AfDB chief Donald Kaberuka told Reuters in an interview.

A number of mining companies including major multinationals operate in West Africa and many have acted swiftly to keep Ebola at bay, screening employees and curbing access to remote mining camps while keeping output of iron ore and gold ticking over.

Kaberuka urged miners to not only protect operations and safeguard future investments, but also provide expertise in the battle against Ebola.

“I would like to work with business, with telecommunication companies, who have lots of experience with logistics…with mining companies, shipping companies because it is in our interest to overcome the epidemic as quickly as we can for business to resume.”

DRAG ON GROWTH Short-term economic growth will be hit in all three countries, said Kaberuka, though he forecast no fall-out beyond. “When you look at the short-term macro-economic shock on revenues and on foreign exchange, they have no chance of avoiding a 2.5 percentage (point drop) at the minimum,” he said.

“The larger economies in West Africa – Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana – can maintain their economic growth.”

The African Development Bank is a multilateral finance institution founded in 1963 to foster economic development and social progress across the continent.

After getting off to a slow start, the international response to the Ebola crisis has gathered steam in recent weeks with donors pledging hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

The U.S. government is scrambling 3,000 soldiers to the region to build an extra 17 treatment centres and train thousands of local

medics. France, Britain and Germany have also promised help.

The AfDB itself is providing $210 million to the three countries at the centre of the epidemic and is open to putting more on the table if needed, said Kaberuka.

The World Health Organization estimated that $1 billion will be need to be spent to limit the spread of Ebola.

Kaberuka welcomed the latest pledges of cash and support, saying it was time for all G8 and G20 countries to get involved and that support was needed past the containment of the virus, which experts predicted could be six month away.

The outbreak has overwhelmed already fragile health systems in West Africa that now need total rebuilding, he said, while governments would need ongoing support to function properly. “The long-term outlook will be quite dire, in a sense that once the crisis is over we need to pick up the pieces,” he said. “The effects – the macroeconomic effects, the social effects, the broader economic effects – we will be dealing with them quite a few years down the road.” (Reuters)


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