Photo: Corporal Paul Shaw/MOD

The impact of the Ebola outbreak on West Africa has been devastating for families, communities and public health systems already under severe strain.    At the same time, the economic impact on the three main countries Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has been crippling, with the World Bank estimating that they will suffer a combined $1.6 billion in economic losses in 2015 due to the ongoing outbreak. Unemployment rates are also expected to remain high, with cross-border traders, private-sector wage earners and the self-employed among the worst hit.  Liberia’s growth forecast for 2015 has been cut in half and projected growth in Sierra Leone and Guinea for 2015 has shrunk to below zero. These countries all had healthy growth rates predicted for 2015 before the epidemic.

Whilst the focus of the response to ebola has inevitably been on putting in place the necessary resources for agencies and medical staff to treat and support those directly affected, the important role business can play is increasinly apparent.  From ensuring investment and financing continues to flow, to making available product and service innovations that overcome logistical challenges and reaching  employees, suppliers and customers with advice on how to stay safe, business can play an important supporting role.

This online discussion will explore how the private sector can best contribute in the wake of a major public health emergency and identify lessons learned for the future.

Key questions for the discussion are:

  • How can business best contribute to tackling public health crisis’ like ebola?
  • What have we learned from the on-going ebola outbreak about how to successfully mobilise a business response, and where are the business innovations happening?
  • How can public-private collaboration enhance the impact of business’s contribution?

 

Editor's Note:

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I am Cornelis Heesbeen of AUXFIN,

How can public-private collaboration enhance the impact of business’s contribution?

Almost everything i needed, but in my opinion in a region as affected as these 3 countries now there is the possibility to organize things in a good way.
We are asked by Guinea to organize an insurance but how to connect the rural families who are traumatic at this time, in the same time how to (re)structure the Rural Financial Infrastructure. We want to install our UMVA platform with free of charge financial services for all our members, including international transfers by migrants, and work on food security like we do in Burundi.

As a company with economical principles, my view and experience is that development organizations are very competitive and not really working together.

 

Thank you BFP for hosting this discussion. I and our team at E&K Health Consulting (http://www.e-kconsulting.com) published an article on BFP website in which we proposed a 3 point strategy for private-sector (business) participation to fight Ebola (http://community.businessfightspoverty.org/m/blogpost?id=2014886%3A...). In brief we proposed:
1. Public private partnerships (PPPs) between African governments and pharmaceutical/biotechnological companies some of which are keen to increase and diversify their investments in Africa.
2.  Investment diversification in research and development (R&D). A case in point is the recent announcement on March 31 by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to invest approximately 130 million pounds in R&D in Africa GSK Press release 31 march 2014. Another example is the growing investment by Novartis in capacity building for research in Africa through the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR) and Novartis Africa University Novartis.
3. Engaging with pharmaceutical companies and negotiating for mutually beneficial partnerships. For instance, governments can offer laboratory spaces at their public universities (most of which are not fully utilized and ill-equipped) to pharmaceutical companies at a subsidized rate (thus attracting pharma companies to set up R&D laboratory with government as opposed to leasing out expensive laboratory space in the general market). In return, governments should negotiate to have therapies and vaccines against bugs like the Ebola virus included in the research objectives of these R&D labs and for ownership of these laboratories after the PPPs lapse. Public universities should also negotiate capacity building agreements with these pharmaceutical companies whereby university staff work at these R&D labs as they are trained in biomedical specialties. In the short term pharmaceutical companies will save on R&D costs since they do not have to import all their personnel from outside Africa to work in these labs. In the long term public universities will build capacity that can continue to work on these research objectives beyond the terms of the PPPs.

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