The outbreak of the Ebola virus may impact economic growth in the affected West African countries by as much as 2%, said New York-based consultant, Teneo Intelligence, especially if mining operations in the area are adversely affected.
No mining operations have been shut yet, but the suspension of flights to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are making it difficult to transport supplies and skills to the mines. A shutdown in the mining industry would mean a further slowdown in growth, Teneo said.
“These states are already significantly aid-dependent. The continued spread of the virus could possibly lead to a close down of operations by mining companies,” Teneo added.
Ebola outbreak disrupts business across the board
The world’s biggest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal has seen disruption to the expansion of its iron ore mine in Liberia due to the Ebola outbreak. Furthermore, the share prices of some mining companies in Sierra Leone, such as London Mining and African Minerals, have slumped on potential disruption of operations there.
Other industries have also been affected, due to the deaths of over 1 000 people across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Farmers in Sierra Leone have reportedly abandoned their fields, while cross-border markets have been shut down.
Abidjan in Ivory Coast, the nearest big port, has announced a ban on all ships from the Ebola-affected countries, creating concerns that shortages of food, fuel and other supplies will become critical. Some media in Liberia are calling it an “economic blockade.”
Ebola’s economic impact
The economy of Sierra Leone is set to expand 14 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Guinea’s economy will likely expand about 4.5 percent, while the gross domestic products of Nigeria and Liberia will probably rise about 7 percent, according to the Washington-based fund.
Currently, Nigeria has not seen a large economic impact on account of Ebola, but this could increase if the disease spreads into the country, according to Teneo.
WHO criticises travel bans
Besides the negative effect on the economies of the West African countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) have warned that the heavy travel bans are making it difficult to treat affected people.
“WHO disappointed when airlines stop flying to West Africa. Hard to save lives if we & other health workers cannot get in,” the organization said in a tweet.
While the travel bans may be an effort to contain the virus, preventing health workers from entering those countries may increase the risk of it spreading. “The suspension of African flights will heighten the risks of Ebola spreading to other countries, since it will become more difficult to send medical and epidemiological specialists to the Ebola zone,” said Stephen Cornish, executive director of MSF Canada.
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