West Africa got a sigh of relief Saturday as the African business community pledged US $28.5 million towards the fight against Ebola, which has damaged the social-economic progress of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Donald Kaberuka, the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), called this a key step in creating a sustainable mechanism to deal with the scourge.
In an African Business Roundtable, organized by AfDB and the African Union on November 8 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in which over 60 private business representatives participated, leading companies in Africa pledged US $28.5 million, while others indicated that they will come up with a contribution figure, within seven days, after consultations with their boards.
In this first wave of pledges, other companies guaranteed to provide logistics and services as their contributions towards fighting back Ebola.
In his remarks, Kaberuka said that whereas financial contributions are very important, competences provided by private companies are much needed.
“I salute the business people of Africa for making such a statement in dealing with an epidemic that has ravaged out continent. We cannot emphasize the importance of finances in overcoming this problem, but competences are very critical as well,” he said.
“Governments have responded well and a number of them have pledged over 2,000 health workers. Private companies can offer to train health workers or equip those on the ground. We need the knowledge they have and services they can offer in responding to this.”
Business leaders at the meeting comprised CEOs and entrepreneurs from various sectors including banking, telecommunications, the extractive industry, among others.
The Chairperson of Africa Union, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, commended Governments, NGO, international organizations and private enterprises that have been at the forefront of the Ebola response.
She said that all sectors in Africa must unite against Ebola, and urged the business community to implement the commitments they made, as well as reach out to their counterparts to support the cause.
“The private sector is important in the development of the continent, and this Roundtable was aimed at mobilizing business support, as well as opening the dialogue on the post-Ebola economic recovery of the countries,” she said.
“The resources mobilized from this meeting will part of a longer term program to build Africa’s capacity to deal with such outbreaks in the future.”
The business leaders agreed to set up a fund under the auspices of AfDB and AU through which they can always contribute financially or logistically to disease outbreaks.
They also agreed to turn the business roundtable an annual event in order to solidify collaborations between government, non-government and private enterprises against disease outbreaks.
To date, Ebola has ravaged communities and infected more than 13,000 people and killing over 4,900. Nigeria, which suffered the scourge alongside Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, was in October declared Ebola-free.
The African Development Bank oversaw projects through which 85 health workers were deployed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, coming from across Africa. A number of countries ¬– including Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Madagascar and Malawi – have also sent medical personnel to join the program.