Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy has faced many challenges from bad leadership to corruption and recently Boko Haram insurgency, but in the midst of its troubles, the country emerged as the continent’s leading investment destination in June, but now it faces a greater evil threatening to dampen investment flow in West Africa.
This scenario resonates across the region as impressive economic growth has been recorded in recent times, with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) listing one of the Ebola endemic countries, Guinea, among African countries that will record a 6.9 percent GDP growth in 2014.
An initial World Bank-IMF assessment for Guinea, whose GDP currently grows at 4.5 percent, projects a full percentage point fall to 3.5 percent as a result of Ebola outbreak in the West African country.
According to the assessment by the global lenders, Agriculture has also been affected in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as rural workers have fled farming areas in the zones affected by the Ebola outbreak.
In Kenema, a diamond mining town in Sierra Leone, 320 kilometres east of Freetown, shops closed and miners abandoned their pits, while the roads were empty of traffic.
The death toll from the Ebola outbreak on Monday reached 887 after 61 more fatalities were recorded, according to the World Health Organization, keeping the whole world on its toes to ensure the highly infectious disease does not spread to their countries. One of the more liberal countries in this regard, the United States currently has a case on its hands, as a New York hospital placed a patient in strict isolation after Ebola-like symptoms were observed following a recent trip to West Africa.
Other western nations have moved to forestall a similar occurrence, with strict messages sent out to ensure people coming into their nations from Africa are screened (just like the US did on some African leaders present at the ongoing US Africa Leaders’ Summit) before they were allowed in. Others have also warned their citizens against going to Africa, especially West Africa where the disease is endemic.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had earlier urged Australians to avoid areas affected by the virus (including Nigeria) and be aware they could run into trouble if they venture into the region.
“Australians are also advised that borders in the region may be closed at short notice to contain the outbreak,” the department said in its travel bulletin.
A Level 3 travel warning, the strongest that can be issued was also in a travel advice given to Americans by the country’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as they were told to avoid “non-essential trips to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.” Nigeria may be added soon if more cases of the virus are confirmed.
The UK Government has however not advised against travel to West Africa but said it was closely monitoring the spread of the virus and was taking “precautionary measures”.
Cross-border commerce has slowed considerably with land crossings closed to neighbouring countries and more recently cancellation of flights. Emirates, Pan-African airlines, Arik and ASKY have all cancelled flights to the affected countries where they operate. British Airways have also joined, with its own cancellation to last till the end of August.
“There have been noticeably fewer international flights to these countries, leading to lower revenues and financial inflows, and many projects involving expatriate workers or business travellers have been scaled down,” the World Bank said in a new release.
Businesses in Africa will suffer if the scourge is not curtailed as a matter of urgency, and West Africa’s FDI inflow which has been key to its recent development strides may also drop.
Although the truth is that Ebola does not spread as easily as people think, no one is ready to take chances. More cases are being reported as the spread continues.
The World Bank has pledged $200 million in an emergency response, to help contain the deadly Ebola virus and also help communities cope with financial hardship caused by the outbreak.
African leaders need to buckle up as Ebola is capable of killing its victims, and the economy can become one of them if care is not taken.