Guinea gives masterclass in how to bounce back from Ebola. Starting a business takes just 72 hours; this year expect 4,000 new ones

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Country’s economy has been battered by it’s worst ever outbreak of the diseases, but it may just be the best African example of how to grow.

GUINEA’S investment agency said the economy showed signs of recovery from the Ebola outbreak, but it is not in the way you would have expected. It says it is through the rapid growth of small businesses in the West African nation.

More than 4,000 small- and medium-sized companies will probably be created this year, according to the private investment promotion agency, known by its French acronym APIP.

“Having registered a dramatic slowing due to Ebola last year, economic activities are starting again,” Gabriel Curtis, director-general of the agency, said in an interview in the capital, Conakry on Aug. 13. “People are beginning to return.”

Shaken by Ebola, and eager to get a nation beaten to the ground by Ebola back on on its feet, Guinea’s government has reduced the time to set up a company to 72 hours, from “weeks, even months,” said Curtis, who is a former vice-president for risk and capital management at the Bank of New York Mellon Corp.’s London branch.

Investors are showing interest in the services industry, construction, energy and agriculture, he said.

Guinea is among three West African countries hardest hit by the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola. The government needs at least $1.5 billion to repair the damage inflicted by the disease, Finance Minister Mohamed Diare said in June.

More than 2,500 people have died of Ebola in Guinea since the first victim was identified in a densely forested area of the country in late 2013. While the number of new cases has fallen off sharply, a few are still being reported every week.

The steep fall in the time needed to start a business to less than a week will likely lift the economy, and is happening in other Ebola affected nations too—just five days are currently needed to start up in Liberia, and 12 in Sierra Leone.

But it also falls into a trend where West African countries have the fewest number of days required to start a business, according to the World Bank. Senegal requires six days, Ivory Coast seven, Guinea Bissau nine, Togo 10 and Mali 11.

On the other extreme are the Central African countries, with 135 days required in Equatorial Guinea, 53 in the Republic of Congo and 50 in Gabon. East African countries are in the middle—Uganda requires an average 32 days, Kenya 30 and Tanzania 26.

Southern African countries are a mix of both—a surprising 60 and 66 days are required in Botswana and Namibia respectively, 90 in Zimbabwe and 38 in Seychelles. But to start a business in Zambia takes just seven days, eight in Madagascar, 13 in Mozambique and 19 in South Africa.

To start a business in fast growing Ethiopia will take you 15 days, and 14 in Djibouti, but you will need to be more patient in Eritrea—84 days.

The absolute star comes from an unexpected place—Burundi where just 5 days are needed, similar to Liberia, showing just how much conflict can set back a nation, despite improving the business climate.

-Bloomberg and Mail & Guardian Africa.

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