Ebola outbreak hampers key industries in West Africa


“Apart from the very clear human impact of the virus through mortality, the spread of Ebola also has a huge psychological impact by creating an environment of panic and fear which affects commercial activities and the normal functioning of societies and economies,” Ronak Gopaldas, head of country risk at Rand Merchant Bank, told cnbcafrica.com in an exclusive interview.

“From an economic perspective, commercial activities, particularly trade and investment flows have been affected.”

(WATCH VIDEO: Video: What Ebola outbreak in West Africa means for business)


He further explained that since the start of the epidemic, many traders have been too afraid of venturing into the affected areas resulting in depressed trade activity in countries already suffering from high levels of poverty.

Several international companies, particularly in the natural resources sector, have scaled back or halted operations. Gopaldas believes that if this persists over a sustained period, it could have a significant impact on the West African countries that are highly dependent on these key sectors.

“Farming activities may also be affected in terms of both economic output and food supply,” he added.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ebola virus disease is a severe often fatal illness with a case fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases.  

As of the 1 August 2014, a total of 1603 cases have been confirmed and reported to the WHO, with 887 deaths across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria since March 2014.

The WHO along with West African leaders recently launched a joint 100 million US dollar response plan as part of an intensified, regional and national campaign to bring the outbreak under control.

(READ MORE: World Bank sets emergency fund to curb Ebola)

However, Gopaldas contended that financial aid alone may not be sufficient.

“Whilst it is definitely a positive, Aid alone is not sufficient to alleviate the problem. Many of the countries affected are extremely poor and their public health infrastructures are weak, so the correct medical skills and resources are required to make sure that the virus is contained.”

He added that strong cooperation between West African government and their development partners is also essential in order to control borders and synchronise actions that will control the virus.

(WATCH VIDEO: Ways of containing the spread of Ebola)

“To this end, an effective strategy needs to entail improved surveillance, enhanced cross-border collaboration, increasing financing, improving engagement with local communities and greater cooperating with the WHO. Importantly, educating their populations about the virus will also be a critical component in any effective containment strategy,” said Gopaldas.