To End Ebola Attack, Top African Business Leaders Pump US$28.5M

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Top African business leaders have raised US$28.5 million as an emergency fund to help three countries that have been hard hit by the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa.

The announcement was made recently during an African Business Roundtable (ABR) summit on Ebola held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where African business leaders and officials of development finance institutions and members of African Union (AU) countries gathered to launch the emergency response fund.

According to a dispatched from Addis Ababa, “the roundtable summit was jointly organized by the AU, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to mobilize African business leaders on the EVD, and to provide their support in the fight against the disease.”

African business leaders at the roundtable comprised chief executive officers (CEOs) from different sectors, including banking institutions, telecommunications, mining, energy services and manufacturing companies.

At the summit, “business leaders agreed to establish a fund under the auspices of the African Union Foundation, through a facility managed by the AfDB, to boost efforts to equip, train and deploy African health workers to fight the epidemic.”

In response to appeals from these countries, leading companies in Africa provided logistical support, in kind contributions and over US$28 million as part of the first wave of pledges.

In addition, participants further called on the private sector across Africa to join them in this effort. Businesses also agreed to leverage their resources and capacity to help galvanize citizens action around a 'United Against Ebola' campaign, and to provide individuals across Africa and globally with an opportunity to contribute.

The consensus at the meeting was that the funds committed would be disbursed immediately to the government and health authorities in the Ebola affected countries.

The funds would be used to support an African medical corps – including doctors, nurses and lab technicians – to care for those infected with Ebola, strengthen the capacity of local health services and staff Ebola treatment centers’ in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The resources are expected to be deployed in the framework of the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), in close coordination with the national taskforces in those Ebola-affected countries, and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

The resources mobilized will also be part of a longer-term program to build Africa's capacity to deal with such outbreaks if any in the future.

"Our immediate concern is to respond to the appeal for 1,000 health care workers," chairman of Econet Wireless, an African telecom operator, Strive Masiyiwa, told foreign reporters.

"We have also received considerable contributions in kind, which may well exceed what we have received in cash."

Ebola has killed 4,950 people of the 13,241 infected since the outbreak started earlier this year, according to the World Health Organization, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

While countries such as the United States to China and Cuba have deployed resources and health personnel in a U.N.-led aid surge, fast-growing African states and institutions have faced questions about the level and speed of their own contributions.

The AU and the AfDB will guide the legal set-up of the new fund, which will be administered by a board of trustees drawn from corporate Africa.

Givers to the fund also include foreign firms that do business in Africa, Masiyiwa said.

At the meeting, African telecom firms also agreed an initiative to provide a platform for their customers to give at least a dollar each, with the potential of reaching 700 million mobile phone users, he added.

AfDB has been spearheading provision of financial support to the countries severely affected by the disease, namely, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and so far, has committed $223 million to the purpose.

The bank's estimates show that the current Ebola crisis would, in 2014, reduce Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Guinea by 2.4 percent, Liberia by 3.9 percent, and Sierra Leone by 3.7 percent.

In Sierra Leone, for example, price inflation could reach 29.4 percent should the situation continues up to the end of the year.

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