Trade recovery in the wake of Ebola
It may be too early to make any decisive claims, but the fight against Ebola seems to be coming to an end. While Liberia has just been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO), weekly infections in Guinea and Sierra Leone have dropped to single digits for the first time since the peak of the epidemic. This is a long-awaited piece of good news, however, as countries struck by the virus start to think about recovery, the picture nonetheless looks rather grim.
First and foremost, the human costs of the epidemic for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been absolutely tragic, with the number of deaths now exceeding 11,000. The entire social and economic fabric of these countries with already weak capacity has been severely damaged. Although it is impossible to determine the full impact of Ebola on the economies of these countries, estimations from the World Bank suggest that their GDP losses total US$ 2.2 billion. In particular, trade relations and networks across the region have suffered a hard blow. Borders may well be reopened, but more importantly, trust between people will need to be restored.
This issue of Bridges Africa includes two articles that look at the considerable economic challenges encountered by the Ebola-struck countries. Dianna Games and Brendan Vickers examine the implications of the Ebola crisis on the three most affected countries in terms of trade and regional integration. In a separate contribution, Rahul Bhatnagar concentrates on the case of Liberia. After an assessment of the virus’ impact on the Liberian economy, the author sketches the possibilities for revitalising the private sector and stimulating growth in the short and medium run.
These analyses make it clear: the post-Ebola recovery will be a long and bumpy road. While the top priority is ensuring that the epidemic remains contained, it is also necessary to start planning for social and economic reconstruction. From this perspective, trade could prove a powerful engine to regain economic dynamism.
As WTO members start crafting the contours of a possible Doha work programme, this issue of Bridges Africa also features several articles related to agricultural trade issues in the global context and their implications particularly for food security.
Finally, Khalid El Bernoussi, a Moroccan expert, tells us why trade facilitation is a paradoxical issue for North Africa arguing for the establishment of a Trade Facilitation Council to boost regional integration in the region.
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