Economic cost of Ebola to West Africa over $1bn, as Liberia slashes growth outlook...and it could get worse

The numbers are beginning to make for harrowing reading. For Nigeria cost of the response to the crisis could surpass Liberia's entire annual budget.

LIBERIA became the second West African state to declare a state of emergency over the Ebola Virus Disease, following in the footsteps of Sierra Leone that did did so last week. 

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a state of emergency of at least 90 days on Wednesday, saying extraordinary measures were needed “for the very survival of our state”.

Nigerian health officials are describing the presence of Ebola in the country as a national emergency.

The situation has seen quarantines in Sierra Leone being enforced by troops, while military blockades in some areas of Liberia have reportedly cut off entire cities from trade.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its latest update said 932 people have so far died from the illness, while 1, 711 have been infected in the four countries, including Guinea.

WHO is meeting to decide whether to declare a global alert, with a decision expected on Friday.

Beyond the rising death toll is another grim reality, that the three most affected countries are already fragile countries that require more international support than other countries. 

The economic mainstays of agriculture, tourism, travel and mining are already taking a pummelling, and for many the prognosis for the rest of the year is not too rosy. 

The fear has also led to a general rise in the cost of living, with prices jacked up by traders fearful of the unknown.

And with Nigeria confirming two people had died from eight confirmed cases in the country, including the first Nigerian citizen, the situation could become much worse. The implications for Nigeria are especially grim—it is Africa’s most populous country, and also its biggest economy. 

We take a look at the early economic numbers:

5.9%—Liberia’s projected gross domestic product growth for this year. Minister Konneh has said this will have to be revised down due to the virus, hitting his “Liberia Rising 2030” development plan.

2%—the portion of Liberia’s budget that was hit over the three months of April, May and June, according to the country’s Finance minister Amara Konneh. 

This translates to $12 million, and is set to get worse.

$610 million—The cost to Nigeria if it found itself with a similarly sized hole in its $30.55 billion 2014 budget. This sum would be more than half the $1 billion the emergency funding President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking to strengthen the country’s security forces in the face of a terrorist threat by Boko Haram.

This figure would be more than Liberia’s entire budget.

If the outbreak continued at the same rate as in Liberia, for the rest of the year Nigeria, would be staring at a bill of close to $2 billion.

21 million—the population of Lagos, where all the Nigerian cases have been confined.  The megacity’s 2014 budget was $3 billion.  

1—percentage point revision of Guinea’s projected GDP growth, from 4.5% to 3.5%, according to an IMF-World Bank initial assessment of the outbreak’s impact. This could be further revised if the outbreak continues.

$200 million—the amount committed so far by the World Bank to fight the illness in Guinea, Sierra Leona and Liberia, the three worst hit countries. This is half of Burundi’s current fiscal budget.

$100 million—Size of the plan launched by the WHO to tackle the epidemic, nearly 50% of The Gambia’s current $230 million budget.

$60 million—funding committed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) towards fighting the outbreak. The bank’s initial funding at the start of the outbreak in April was $3 million.

8—The number of countries the AfDB will provide emergency funding for to tackle the haemorraghic fever. In addition to the three aforementioned countries, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Mali would also be roped in.

4—Number of airlines that have so far restricted flights to the region—including heavy hitters British Airways and Emirates. Others are regional carriers ASKY and ArikAir.  Tourism contributes close to 2% of Sierra Leone’s GDP, while US carrier Delta Airlines is set to join  Air France in pulling out of Liberia, on the back of low volumes, dealing a blow to its nascent tourism industry.

$123,000—the cost of building one isolation tent in Nigeria, according to health minister Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu. The emergency has pushed striking Nigerian doctors to call off their one-month long strike.

$2 million—the cost of treating and transporting two Ebola-stricken US medics back home. Africa, with a health per capita spend of under $100, can ill afford such sums.  

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