Addis Abeba – A historic Roundtable of business leaders comprising CEOs from a range of sectors such as banking, telecommunications, mining, energy, services and manufacturing joined forces with the African Union, the African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa to create and support an emergency funding mechanism to deal with the Ebola outbreak and its consequences. Attending business leaders pledged over $28 Million to kick start the fund.
“We must arrest the infection of perception with the same resolve as we prepare to deal with the infection of the virus”, said Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the ECA, stressing that both are deadly – one kills people and the other kills hope.
This first wave of pledges will go towards logistical support and in kind contributions, such as support to an African medical corps of doctors, nurses and lab technicians to care for those infect with Ebola. There will also be a focus on strengthening the capacity of local health services and staff Ebola treatment centers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
“These resources will be deployed in the framework of the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa, in close coordination with the national taskforces in the Ebola-affected countries and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response” according to Communiqué issued at the end of the meeting.
Mr. Lopes urged the business community not to discount the Mano River basin, one of the richest in the Continent, stressing that the region’s “fundamentals may be shaken but the prospects remain intact. Those who are quick to despair may regret once the turnaround is pronounced,”he said.
The CEOs also committed to leveraging their resources and capacity to help galvanize citizen action around a United Against Ebola campaign and to provide individuals across Africa and globally with an opportunity to contribute. It is expected that these efforts will be part of a longer term program to build Africa’s capacity to deal with such outbreaks in the future. More pledges are expected in the coming few days and weeks as they consult with their governance structures.
Speaking on behalf of the Business of the representatives, Mr. Strive Masiwa, ECONET International said, “This is a response coming from African owned companies and global companies active in Africa. The African Telcom sector has agreed to set up a special facility to come into effect in early December to allow all subscribers to contribute 1 dollar each voluntarily to support the response.”
He said that this would be the first time such an effort by the sector has been set up across all telecom networks. “We are not just about big business but about ordinary Africans participating in this response,” he said. He also noted that Sweden, Bati Airtell across India have expressed interest in supporting the efforts.
“Ebola is not an African problem, it’s a global problem,” said Masiwa.
Statements were issued by the African Union’s Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, who both also saluted and hailed the efforts and the participation of the Private Sector. Present at the meeting were Strive Masiwa, ECONET Wireless International; Patrice Mosephe, ARM Minerals; Peter Moyo, Vodacom; Bob Collymore, Safaricom and representatives from the Dangote Group, MTN and the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation. Ambassadors from the 3 affected countries were also present.
The Ebola virus has infected more than 13,700 people and killed over 4,900. While the global response to the crisis has increased in recent weeks, there is still a critical need for additional competencies to care for those infected, strengthen local healthy systems and prevent the disease from spreading.
Presenting an economic perspective to the situation, Mr. Lopes said an impact assessment by the ECA stresses that the West African sub region represents close to one third of Africa’s GDP, whereas the three affected countries are less than 1%. “If all the three countries were to register zero growth, it would dent only 0.19% of Africa as a whole,” said Mr. Lopes.