Archive for May, 2015

When the deadly Ebola virus took root in Western Africa, no one could have predicted the outcome. Not only have tens of thousands of people been infected with the disease, but thousands have lost their lives. However, the loss of life isn’t the only thing this deadly disease seems to be taking from the West African countries; it is also causing havoc with the local economies. With bans on international flights, and a general weariness of travelers to enter into areas that are close to the Ebola hotspots, the local economies are beginning to suffer.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the hardest hit countries, there is an impending food crisis since a majority of the countries farmers have abandoned their farms and the revenue from the food production at these farms has essentially ceased. The Famine Early Warning Systems has also warned, “that the spread of the virus would lead to food insecurities within the region,” sending the local economies into crisis.

Local economies are also looking at losing hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue from local entertainment events that have either been moved out of the region or canceled altogether. With this epidemic moving free from geographical limitations, there is a sense of a common predicament amongst the larger global community as a whole. Most West Africans have become aware of the economic consequences that have come from being at the center of the global health disaster. Senol Taskin has been watching the crisis unfold. A financial reporter, Senol has focused his career of 20 plus years on the economy of Africa.

In recent years, the African economy has begun to improve, with their per capita income growing at a rate that is close to that of the rest of the world. West Africa is seeing a middle class starting to emerge, and countries like Ethiopia and Liberia, some of the severely poor countries, are making rapid progress. With the rapid economic growth, one question that arises is will the widespread famine end.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hopes to help with this issue. Traditionally the foundation has donated billions of dollars to help reduce the disease that has plagued the continent. Recently, the couple spent more than $3 billion on grants to finance programs to help Africa feed itself. The grants are dedicated to funding scientific research, new programs to distribute the research, provide better food storage and provide the population with more mobile phones. With these programs, the Mr. and Ms. Gates hope to remove barriers that have been impeding progress.

While it is too early to say whether the programs the Gates Foundation are putting in place will actually work, it is a step in the right direction. While the African economy is getting stronger, if the population continues to struggle with famine, the progress they have seen thus far will come to a standstill and could eventually begin to slide backward once more. Senol Taskin, a freelance financial writer, has been following the economy of Africa closely throughout his 20-year career and is not surprised by the unprecedented growth the African economy has witnessed in the last decade.