How West Africa is counting the cost of the Ebola outbreak

Video transcript

Realistically, what can West African governments do to minimise the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak?

Teresa Nogueira Pinto:

Governments in affected countries will have to deal with both immediate and long term challenges. And I would say that right now the most pressing challenge is to avoid political and social violence, and to create public trust.

Because we know that there are more than one million people living in quarantine regions, and these people already need food and water relief and other emergency assistance. And governments need to create adequate responses for these populations and also to create effective communication policies.

And here, not only political authorities but also religious authorities and community leaders can play a crucial role. Because it is important to share information about the disease and explain that these kind of measures – the quarantine, the curfews – they are needed to protect the population, and that they are not something against the population.

I think this is very important to avoid the creation of widespread violence and panic, which would have long-term serious effects, both political and economic.

At the same time, the governments will have to closely monitor the effects of this outbreak on the markets, to detect price spikes and try to minimise the effects of transport and trade disruptions.

How will the Ebola outbreak affect regional trade in West Africa?

Teresa Nogueira Pinto:

Another critical issue is isolation, because these countries had a lot of internal trade and regional trade, and now this is affecting traditional trade routes.

So it is very important, for example, that ports do not close because these countries depend on food and fuel imports, and they will depend on these even more in the next month.

And if ports close, for example, this would have serious economic consequences for the future.

What can West African governments do to reassure foreign investors?

Teresa Nogueira Pinto:

Another thing that governments would have to do, or should do, is try to keep close communication channels with companies and investors that were operating, or are still operating in the country - sharing information with them and trying to reassure them, and show them that they are trying to deal with this crisis. Because foreign investors and foreign companies can play a crucial role when it comes to rebuilding these countries after the outbreak.

And finally, in the long term, these governments will not only have to convert back these investors and companies, but also demystify the idea of Africa as a ‘lost and dangerous place’.

Because unfortunately one of the facts of this Ebola outbreak is that the optimism of Africa, and the story of the continent-on-the-rise is being seriously affected.

And so these governments – not only the ones affected by this outbreak, but other African governments – will have to make additional efforts to attract back investors and companies.

(Photo credit:dpa)