Farai Gundan Contributor Forbes. As the Ebola epidemic rages on in West Africa, theAfrican Union (AU) has joined forces with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and leading businesses in Africa to essentially cauterize the Ebola epidemic and bolster the economies of the affected countries. A high level forum and round-table held yesterday, November 8 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia saw the mobilization of significant resources from within Africa, where African businessmen, including Strive Masiyiwa of Econet Wireless Global, Patrice Motsepe of African Rainbow Minerals Limited (ARM), Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President of the AfDB, and CEOs from different sectors, including banking, telecommunications, mining, energy, services and manufacturing pledged significant resources towards the fight against Ebola. They agreed to establish a fund under the auspices of the African Union Foundation through a facility managed by the African Development Bank, to boost efforts to equip, train and deploy African health workers to fight the epidemic.
Chairperson of the AU, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma spearheaded the initiative targeting the African business sector to aid in the fight against Ebola. “We would like to mobilize all the sectors of the society, not just governments or health workers but business as well,” she said. Responding to appeals from the affected countries (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone), the leading companies in Africa, present at the forum, committed logistical support, in kind contributions and over USD $28 million as part of the first wave of pledges.
Zimbabwe’s richest man and one of Africa’s most influential business leaders, Mr. Masiyiwa on Friday said that at least USD $35 million had already been raised ahead of the November 8 forum. “The money raised is to ensure the medical professionals needs are adequately sourced to enable a turn-key operation. The funds for the relief call-to-action is intended to bring a coordinated effort to support maximum funds raising from private, civil, international efforts. This is a 100% African solution to support the African Union chair who is mandated by governments within the continent.” The funds will 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, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Additionally, the resources mobilized will be part of a longer-term program to build Africa’s capacity to deal with such outbreaks in the future.
The participants also discussed reversing the economic decline of the affected countries as well as post-Ebola recovery. According to Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, speaking at the forum said, “Ebola not only affects governments or public health, it affects the continent’s investment climate and businesses are losing out on big economic opportunities.” The epidemic has impacted certain industries such as mining, travel and tourism and potentially cocoa (West Africa is the source of 70 percent of the world’s cocoa). Dr. Dlamini-Zuma told CNBC Africa ahead of the forum, “many flights are not flying there and some ships are not docking. Many people who are working on the land are not able to continue because they are looking after sick family members or they are ill themselves. Many private companies have already down-scaled their staff and it will impact tourism as well.” The AU chairperson also reiterated that the Ebola outbreak did not mean that the rest of Africa was closed for business, “it is important to stress that the three countries at the epicenter are not ‘Africa’. The rest of Africa is open for business and so people can travel to other [African] countries and do business as usual. Even in the affected countries, it does not mean that when you arrive there, Ebola grabs you. You can avoid Ebola, you can go to West Africa and come back without Ebola.”
To date, Nigerian billionaire, Aliko Dangote has committed 150Million Naira (USD $800K) towards the fight against Ebola; Tony Elumelu, 100Million Naira, (USD $600k) and Patrice Motsepe, USD $1Million. South Africa’s only Black billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, through his non-profit organization, theMotsepe Foundation donated an additional USD $1Million to the AU mission to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.