Ebola, growth and development

The Ebola virus is supposed to be « the most dangerous since HIV » according to the US government. Strangely, Germany remained quite distant regarding this health issue. As if the Germans did not feel concerned by this topic? or simply relativized its importance ?

On the field, there is a huge concern. Often mixed with a sentiment of helplessness. Ebola already caused over 4000 deaths. But more shocking is the mortality rate:  55% in Africa according to France’s ANRS. Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are at the heart of the epidemic. An epidemic out of control in West Africa. Vulnerable territories, countries « without States », poor and disorganized. Among the lowest countries of the world in terms of human development index (HDI). Morevoer there’s often as few as only one doctor for every 100,000 inhabitants, and as few hospital beds!

In front of this haemorrhagic fever, so far no efficient treatment was found. Let’s remember of the time required  before setting up tri-therapy against another african virus, HIV. On site, the most affected countries do not keep the situation under control. Crisis management was transferred to NGOs.  In Liberia, at a Monrovia hospital, 23 out of 25 nurses were dead last October. A terrible evidence of how critical is the situation there. What to do, then? Stop all airborne connections, in order to slow down the virus spread? This would impede the supply of medical aid that is so needed.

ebola-virus-670

Ebola, first identified back in 1976, comes back whereas globalization seem to face some kind of slowdown, after years of hectic growth. Ebola is another catastrophe for Africa, and a special alert to the rest of the world. It underlines how fragile a, hyper connected world may end up being. It also reminds us of so many unresolved health issues, shared problems for the North and the South. But Ebola is also a symbol of an unbearable gap between the richest and the poorest, far above the abstract notion of countries. The kind of gap that the Bill and Melinda Gate’s foundation try to fight, at all technological cost and risk.

Beyond another humanitarian disaster, Ebola concerns and will mosltly concern the African continent. The last frontier for our sacred economic growth, goddess of modern times. Where Ebola thrives, local markets are stalling, and manpower is missing in the fields. Confinement stifles business. In the Western world, financial markets financiers as usual paranoids, follow up the bankruptcy of companies highly exposed in Africa. China is highly worried too. China, a pioneer in go game, has been staring at Africa for over ten years, and overtook any other competitor, in its quest for food resources, mining, energy as well as new customers.

Unexpectedly Africa turns out to be a symbol of the finitude of growth, of the end of a deaf and blind system. However economists, comfortably settled next to political and business elites, put a stress of record figures of Africa’s economic hits: +4,8% of GDP in 2014 and expected 5,5% in 2015. Still how is Africa going to deal with its local health issues, a highly political issue? What kind of investment in education, including food education, one of the pillars of immune defence?

From an American perspective, lucky Ebola was quickly classified among bioterrorist threats, allowing funds to start R&D at an early stage, looking for treatments. A professor at Delaware State University, coming from Libéria, has a surprizing thesis: a government made coup prior to a new vaccine launch. Some observers see another American counter attack, in a move to hinder the Chinese leadership in Africa and ever clearer global leadership aiming. Awaiting, officially the whole world governance stood up. Further to a financial market psychosis, the G20 financial arm gathered for a « Ebola summit ». The World Bank calculated and prognosed two assumptions of economic consequences for West Africa: either 8 or 32 billion dollars shortfall. But what if Ebola would spill over strategic neighbours such as Nigeria, full of petroleum? The World Bank, unafraid of paradoxes, calls for an economic revival without spreading the virus. Even Lady Lagarde, IMF’s head started recommending affected countries to allow some deeper deficits in order to fight this new plague.

Beyond Ebola’s buzz, we should not forget about the millions of silent victims of malaria and many other diseases. Maybe less spectacular, sometimes killing slowly but surely, in Africa and elsewhere.

Laurent

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