Ebola has drawn the attention of African business leaders, who pledged to raise $28.5 millions to be used to help those who have contracted the disease. The money will be used to create an emergency fund to help the three West African countries most affected by the disease. The leaders announced their contribution after attending the African Round Table Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Members of the African Union as well as representatives of development finance institutions attended the summit. It was organized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The business leaders came from diverse professions including the banking, mining, telecommunications, energy, and manufacturing sectors. They were responding to an appeal for assistance from the affected countries. The fund will be operated under the African Union Foundation. It will facilitate funds to buy equipment, train workers, and deploy health care workers to areas affected by Ebola.
The leaders called upon other business entities to contribute to the effort. Representatives of Telecommunications firms at the summit pledged to request their customers to contribute one dollar each to support the cause. The funds will be made available to governments in the affected countries through the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).
Ebola has so far killed 4,950 people in the affected region. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 13,000 have been infected since the disease was reported early this year. By this contribution, Africa will be following the footsteps of the U.S, China, and Cuba and some European countries, which have already sent personnel to the affected areas in addition to contributing financially to assist those negatively impacted by Ebola.
In addition to drawing the attention of African business leaders, Ebola is also the focus of the African Development Bank, which has committed $223 million to help the affected countries. According to the bank’s estimates, the crisis will reduce the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Guinea to 2.4 percent, Sierra Leone by 3.9 percent and Liberia by 3.7 percent.
The African Business Leaders Summit came on the heels of another meeting by the Heads of states that took place a week earlier in Addis Ababa. During the meeting, President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo was appointed to oversee the management of the disease in West Africa. The leaders asked researchers to accelerate efforts to develop vaccines to be used for the treatment of Ebola. They requested the institutions responsible for supplying the drugs to consider the provision of vaccines to the affected region to be a priority. They asked that prices for medicines be subsidized so as to enable those affected by the disease to afford them.
While Ebola has drawn the attention of African business leaders for the first time since it appeared in Liberia in March, this was the third time the West African presidents were meeting to discuss how to deal with Ebola. President John Mahama of Ghana, who is the current chairman of ECOWAS, said that even though some countries had made positive steps in curbing the disease, a lot more needed to be done. He told the attendees-who included more than 10 regional heads of state-that there was political will to eradicate the disease from the region. The European Union announced that it would provide 280 million Euros immediately. It is going to also support the effort with 1 billion Euros in the long term.
By Benedicto Ateku