The African Capacity Building Foundation joined top African business leaders at a roundtable to establish an emergency fund to help countries hit by the Ebola outbreak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 8, 2014. The meeting held at the African Union Conference Centre brought together the African Union, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, foundations, non-governmental organizations’ and leading businesses in Africa committed to join forces to create and support a funding mechanism to deal with the Ebola outbreak and its consequences.
$28.5 million was raised through pledges from the firms and individuals at the roundtable to deploy at least 1,000 health workers to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. These resources will be deployed in the framework of the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), in close coordination with the national taskforces in the Ebola-affected countries and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). The resources mobilized will be part of a longer term program to build Africa’s capacity to deal with such outbreaks in the future.
The mission given to the ACBF by African countries and their bilateral and multilateral partners is to build sustainable human and institutional capacity for good governance and development management in Africa. The Foundation considers the Ebola epidemic - like malaria, HIV AIDS, tobacco epidemic – first as a threat to the capacity built by African countries with the support of ACBF over the past 23 years. Secondly, ACBF sees the Ebola epidemic as one of the manifestations of the remaining capacity challenges which the continent still faces despite the effort already made.
The outbreak of Ebola has impacted negatively on the implementation of some ACBF supported initiatives in West Africa, especially the regional projects and those located in the countries affected by the disease. Among the most affected programs are : the Strengthening Institutional Capacity of African Women Development Fund Project (AWDF), the West African Monetary Institute Capacity Building Project (CAP-WAMI), the Economic Policy Management Training Program of the University of Ghana, the Public Sector Management Training Program (PSMTP-GIMPA), the National Institute for Legislative Studies Capacity Building Project (NILS-CAP), the Parliament of Sierra Leone Capacity Building Project-(SL-CAP), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa Capacity Building Project (CODESRIA), the West African Institute for Financial and The Economic Management Capacity Building Program (WAIFEM CBP). This will negatively affect capacity development results and level of disbursements to those projects/programs to the tune of $6.6 million for the year 2014.
Since its establishment in 1991 and with the support of its African member countries and their bilateral and multilateral development partners, ACBF, Africa’s premier capacity building institution, has been instrumental in supporting policy formulation and implementation, skills development and promotion of policy dialogue between governments and non-state actors, in the overwhelming majority of African countries. There is a large consensus in the development community that ACBF has made a decisive contribution to the improvement of the macroeconomic environment in Africa that paved the way for the steady economic growth which has been observed in many African countries over the past decade. The Foundation achieved this impressive performance through supporting think tanks and policy institutes that provide governments and other development actors with quality policy analysis and research for policy formulation and implementation, as well as skills development of thousands of middle to high level officials in economic sectors across Africa. It is easy to understand therefore that any epidemic that comes with the risk of depleting the capacity already built in Africa, due to its heavy death toll, represents a major concern for ACBF.
According to public health specialists, the Ebola virus disease (EVD) is said to kill between 50% and 90% of those contracting it. Estimates by the World Health Organization indicate that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is likely to affect at least 20,000 people in the most affected countries before it can be controlled, hopefully within the next 6 months. The risk is therefore a potential death toll of about 10,000 to 18,000 in just 8 months if more vigorous mitigating measures are not taken. It is most likely that the affected people would in majority be the most active and capacitated ones.
The other major implication of the Ebola epidemic on capacity development relates to the resurgence of attitudes that can be seen as backtracking on the progress made on regional integration. Over the years, ACBF has been at the fore front of the promotion of regional integration in order to improve intra-African trade and increase Africa’s share in the world trade. One of the main areas in which progress has been observed in Africa’s regional integration agenda to date, namely free movement of people and goods, is being seriously threatened by the wave of border closings and travel bans. Yet priority should have been given to pooling of resources to contain the epidemic and help fight it in affected countries to avoid the spread. This is in addition to the other economic inconveniences of the epidemic such as its negative impact on foreign direct investment. Ebola is indeed nourishing a psychosis among investors who are putting their plans for the affected regions on hold with business partners canceling travels to African countries.
The other capacity dimension of the Ebola epidemic is the observation that, despite all the effort already made by African countries with ACBF and other partners support, a lot remains to be done in capacity development in Africa. Public health experts agree that without better public health systems, Ebola will be difficult to contain. The current outbreak in West Africa has shed more light on the public health capacity challenges that some African countries are facing at both human (trained personnel) and institutional (a good public health infrastructure) levels. Most hospitals in Africa have no quarantine units or holding centers, despite Ebola being a real health risk. Meanwhile, the Doctor-Patient ratio is said to be below the World Health Organization’s norm of 1 physician for 600 people in the majority of African countries.
The epidemics that – too frequently – rock the continent are signals that Africa should continue investing heavily in capacity development. Indeed, it becomes very difficult to mobilize help from abroad with an epidemic that has such a high contamination risk and without the minimum institutional capacity for this help to be effective.
With a mission to build sustainable capacity for good governance and development management in Africa, ACBF cannot remain indifferent to the outbreak of epidemics which may undermine its goals by depleting capacity already built.
Therefore, the Foundation is ready to support policy formulation and implementation for an effective mitigation of these major risks to the continent’s progress and economic transformation. . In that vein, some activities have already started with a special session on Ebola held during the recent Policy Institutes Committee meeting in Swaziland on 24-25 October 2014. It was agreed during the meeting that ACBF should launch studies on the capacity dimension of the spread of Ebola virus disease. ACBF intends to collaborate with its partners such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI), and the Mano River Union (MRU) to engage the Ebola Management Response Team (EMRT) of the affected countries to discuss areas of intervention in relation to capacity development.