The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) recommended to creditors on Monday to cancel the outstanding debt of the three West African countries worst affected by the deadly Ebola epidemic, highlighting that even if those most affected were to register zero economic growth, the impact on Africa as a continent would be minimal.
“The impact of the Ebola on the three countries is so significant that we ask the world to take a step forward,” said the UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Carlos Lopes.
According to Lopes, cancellation should not be a big problem, because so far the international community has pledged aid worth $3 million to the countries involved and the total indebtedness of the three when added together is less than this amount.
The proposal to contribute to the economy recovery of Liberia, Guinea Conakry and Sierra Leone by writing off their debt was in a report presented in Addis Ababa evaluating the socio-economic impact of the virus not only in these three countries, but also on a regional and continent-wide basis.
According to a study released by a UN regional forum, “Educational systems, rising social stigma, unemployment, and decreased food security are some of the big issues that Ebola-affected countries must deal with.”
The effect of cancelling the debt would be notable, since it would create the necessary conditions for the economic recovery in Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone after they contain the outbreak, added the official.
The report shows, “Although Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have suffered serious Gross Domestic Product (GDP) losses, the effects on both West Africa and the continent as a whole will be minimal, partly because, on the basis of 2013’s estimates, the three economies together account for only 2.42 per cent of West Africa’s GDP and 0.68 per cent of Africa’s.”
The total debt of the three countries amounted to $2.6 billion, but the economic recession caused by the epidemic outbreak makes payments more difficult for them, he noted. The report also raised the alarm on the risk of a rise in mortality of diseases not related to Ebola and points out the wider impacts of the virus on the livelihoods of those affected.
The Ebola outbreak, which so far has claimed the lives of over 6,000 people, has led to the stoppage of investments that were in the process of being negotiated in the three worst-hit countries.