Op-Ed: How Angola can use its industries to fight COVID-19

PUBLISHED: Mon, 18 May 2020 22:24:02 GMT

By Zandre Campos, CEO of ABO Capital.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, no country is immune. Global cases are well into the millions and Africa is continuing to see a rise. There are several African countries whose numbers are rapidly increasing including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa. However, their numbers are still relatively low compared to some of the hardest-hit countries, such as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and Italy. In my homeland of Angola, we have been very fortunate to have less than 50 reported cases to date. However, despite the swift actions taken by the country to keep the rate of infection relatively low, its role in the global economy means it is still at risk. Angola must prepare for when travel and trade resume at full speed, as it will be critical to remain vigilant and prepared. 

The cost of the coronavirus, if it becomes more widespread, will not only be to the health of Angolans, but to its economy, as seen in the latest Ebola epidemic. During the Ebola epidemic of 2014 to 2016, there were approximately 28,600 cases and 11,300 deaths[1]. In addition to the devastatingly large loss of life, Ebola contributed significantly to economic hardships in the countries that were most impacted, ie, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

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In 2014, the World Bank projected that the three nations would in 2015 lose approximately $2.2 billion in their gross domestic product. The primary donors in the international response, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, donated a combined total of over $3.6 billion in relief efforts. The sectors most greatly affected were the private sector, agricultural production, and cross-border trade as restrictions on movement, goods, and services were put in place[2]. Not only did this hurt the GDP and the economy, but it had a direct impact on the lives of those in affected regions. While a slowdown in these sectors leads to a loss of jobs and job security, it often impacts the most vulnerable in society first. Decreased agriculture and trade can cause food shortages, which have a direct impact on low income individuals and their ability to have access to food.

if Angola fails to remain diligent and keep the rate of infection relatively low, it could come at a severe economic cost as shown by countries that had Ebola, therefore different industries need to step up to help the relief efforts. While some industries are being negatively impacted by the coronavirus, they can also do a number of things to help. For example, Angola’s oil and gas industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus. As people across the world shelter in their homes, the price of oil has been consistently dropping and the industry is facing a significant downturn. However, there are a number of ways that those in the industry can assist Angola and the challenges it is facing caused by coronavirus.

For one, many companies have and can donate to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which purchases and ships protective equipment for medical workers. The fund also puts money towards research to develop a vaccine for the virus. In addition to donating to relief funds, many companies have and can turn their focus to producing products that can be useful in the fight against the coronavirus. Some of the materials that are used in fuel production, such as ethanol from sugarcane, can be made into disinfectant instead. Oil and gas companies can shift their production in other ways as well. For those with major factories, if the resources are available, they can produce not only disinfectants, but face masks and protective gear too.

Despite the downturn that the oil and gas industry is currently facing, there are other ways that companies can provide relief in multiple ways. For example they can follow the example of those offering free fuel to service vehicles, while others are giving fuel cards or fuel vouchers to service workers. Angola’s oil and gas industry is a crucial component of the economy. While it is in a vulnerable position right now, this doesn’t mean that companies aren’t able to shift their focus, and their resources, in a way that combats the coronavirus.

While most businesses and industries in Angola will weather the coronavirus pandemic, and even come out stronger on the other side, it highlights the need for an improved education system to be put in place. The coronavirus pandemic draws attention to the fact that the country does not have enough doctors or medical professionals. Angola will have a shortage of doctors if the youth of Angola aren’t getting the best possible education. The need for a highly trained medical community may be brought to light due to current issues, but it will not go away after this virus does. Angola must utilise the scope and knowledge of its ancestors to help in developing other sources of knowledge or solutions.

What is clear is that while the coronavirus might not be going away any time soon, it is presenting an opportunity for companies to mobilise in inspiring ways to help the best that they can. With the ability to come together to provide much-needed materials such as disinfectants and face masks, and the more traditional output of fuel, there is hope in our fight against the global health pandemic. In addition, there are many lessons that we can learn from the past including how to stabilise the economy, keep each other safe, and ultimately make Angola a stronger country.

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