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Amidst fears of negative economic impact, Africa must fight Ebola hysteria – Carlos Lopes

The fight against the deadly Ebola outbreak must be tackled on the basis of scientific evidence, prevention, understanding of transmissibility and an emergency call to fight it with means equivalent to what is spend on peace keeping. The statement was made by Mr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) at the Extra-Ordinary Emergency meeting of the African Union Executive Council holding this week in Addis Abeba.

In an impassioned plea for collective targeted action, Mr. Lopes called on leaders to remember other historically significant outbreaks stating, “We cannot afford a serious threat like Ebola to be de-contextualized – it
brings us back to the stigmatization of Africa.”

He noted that the economic and social consequences of misguided perceptions are already devastating and there are reported Ebola cases in seven countries, with over 2000 deaths and 20,000 estimated cases.

“For each African country putting in place draconian measures that are not medically justified, they have to think of themselves under the same measures in a not so distant future as a very likely possibility,” he said and stressed that at a time the continent was making strides to change the narrative these developments are devastating.

He pointed out that Ebola has been stopped every time an outbreak was announced and that there is a need to be bold about learning from the current mishaps that contributed to the emergency this time around.

He added that Africa has the right to be outraged as only 1% of the pharmaceutical research is devoted to diseases that affect Africa, which is 25% of the world’s burden.

“The reason influenza only kills about half a million a year or SARS only had about 12% death rate compared to Ebola’s 54%, is certainly the existence of a well developed capacity in Western or Southeast Asian countries. It is not because of the nationality or origin of the affected,” he stated.

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Meanwhile, estimates by the ECA confirm that several points GDP reduction are to be expected in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, due to a combination of factors: significant reduction of mining operations, disruption of agricultural cycles with direct impact of upcoming harvests, restriction to domestic and cross-border trade, substantial reduction of air travel, postponement of already negotiated or foreseeable investments,
spectacular diversion of public funding towards combating the epidemic, impact on fiscal space and, finally, inability to pursue initiated reforms.

“Remaining countries where cases have been detected so far have not yet being heavily affected. But that can change quickly, like we have seen in Nigeria, with the effects created in the oil industry operations in Port
Harcourt,” he cautioned.

Mr. Lopes made a resounding call for Africa stand ready for this challenge, “in the name of a true rising Africa.”“Ebola is just the last episode in a long course on hysteria faced by the continent. This time around instead of succumbing to it Africans need to fight back,” he said.

A complete cost assessment is being done by the ECA, which expects the overall economic impact to continue to affect business risk perception associated with “Brand Africa.”

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