“We live in a vulnerable world and we need a quick response and lending facilities to be in place,” said Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of The National Treasury Henry Rotich, referring to the Ebola crisis. Rotich called for the establishment of a Crisis Resources envelope, which he said is currently only available to middle-income countries and not to Africa’s poorest countries.
According to Rotich, Kenya is working with the IMF to secure lending facilities for precautionary support.
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance Kaifala Marah emphasized that the situation in his country and in the sub-region is dire and requires the World Bank Group and IMF to go beyond their normal practices.
“We have to ensure we win the battle on the human front as well as the economic front,” Marah said. He stressed that, “We have to get social protection in place to look after vulnerable people, while still remaining competitive as is expected”.
Marah gave a heart wrenching account of the situation in Sierra Leone, a country whose GDP growth for 2014 was projected at 11.3% before Ebola, he said, but is now hovering at 3% or less. Inflation has equally been adversely affected. In June 2014, inflation in Sierra Leone was about 6.4% but has spiraled to 67.4%, according to Marah.
“I appreciate and understand that fragility is self-enforcing,” Marah said. “If we had the right infrastructure, the right institutions, and the right human capacity to be able to confront Ebola, we wouldn’t have suffered as we have right now.”
Every gain made by Sierra Leone post the 12-year civil war, Marah said, has been lost.
Marah called on the international media to stop sensationalizing the epidemic. “The way the media has fueled globalized fear in people is not fair to the efforts being made,” he said.
Stability as a driver of growth
Other areas of concern raised by the ministers included support for agriculture, access to energy and clean water, and security in the region.
Bedoumra Kordje, Chad’s minister of finance, called for safety and security to be integrated into development initiatives, as these affect stability in much of Africa, including in the Sahel.
“Chad is enjoying the longest period of stability having had issues with Libya in the North,” he said.
He pointed to the conflict in Darfur, to the East of Chad, and to ongoing terror threats from the Boko Haram militant Islamist group to Chad’s West.
Rotich called for more flexible lending facilities for Kenya, now a Middle Income Country following its recent rebasing.
“Kenya is moving as a frontier economy towards emerging markets and the lending facilities need to be flexible enough for us to access them at varying times,” he said.
Geraldo Joao Martins, Guinea-Bissau’s minister of economy and finance, said that though his country has been affected by successive situations of political instability, which harmed its institutions, deepened its fragility and added to the population’s poverty, Guinea has left behind all of these difficult situations thanks to new leadership.
“Guinea is currently able to bring back the institutions and to retake the international cooperation,” he said. “The country is going through a phase of dividends of peace, so we are taking this opportunity to mobilize all the energy and resources in the public and private sectors, and from the public, to support Guinea in rebuilding a new nation.”