World View: West Africa at Significant Economic Risk as Ebola Panic Intensifies

This morning's key headlines from

  • West Africa at significant economic risk as Ebola panic intensifies
  • Ukraine says it partially destroyed Russian military convoy crossing border

West Africa at significant economic risk as Ebola panic intensifies

With travel bans increasing, the Ebola panic is almost reaching the point where West Africa is being quarantined and cut off from the rest of the world. Airlines are suspending flights to some West African cities. The Ebola crisis could also create shortages of food, fuel and other supplies because the nearest big port, Abidjan in Ivory Coast, has announced a ban on all ships from the Ebola-affected countries Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the three hardest hit countries. Cross-border markets have been shut down, and several major mining companies have scaled back their operations or postponed expansion plans. 

With estimates of more than 1,060 deaths and 1,975 infected, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is already the deadliest ever.  The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the size of the epidemic may be "vastly underestimated," as there are rumors of entire villages being wiped out, and some infected people are simply afraid to notify the authorities of their illness. One health worker was quoted as saying, "If you have people fly in to your village looking like Martians [because of the non-contamination suits], and everyone is getting sick, it's not hard to believe that the Martians are making you sick." 

These panicked reactions are not only devastating the economies of West African countries, they're also making the problem of stabilizing the Ebola epidemic more difficult. According to the WHO, "WHO is disappointed when airlines stop flying to West Africa. Hard to save lives if we and other health workers cannot get in."

Nigeria has had eleven cases of Ebola and one death, but panic is spreading rapidly, particularly in the crowded city of Lagos, where it's feared that Ebola may be passed from person to person faster than authorities can stop it. The crisis is exacerbated by a strike by 16,000 of the country's doctors for better working conditions. Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan on Friday fired the doctors for striking during a medical emergency. 

Nigeria is already facing severe disruptions because of the Boko Haram terrorist group. One government official estimates that "3 million Nigerians are facing 'serious humanitarian challenges' because a breadwinner has been killed in the turmoil or they are too scared to plant the crops." 

Now the Ebola panic is putting the entire country's economy at risk, according to the Moody's ratings agency: 

If a significant outbreak emerges in the Nigerian capital of Lagos, the consequences for the West African oil and gas industry would be considerable. Any material decline in production would quickly translate into economic and fiscal deterioration.

Globe and Mail and Sky News and Vice News and Barrons

Ukraine says it partially destroyed Russian military convoy crossing border

As we reported yesterday, a convoy of Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed the border on Thursday evening from Russia into Ukraine through a hole in the barbed wire fence separating the countries. This was seen and photographed by Moscow correspondents of two London papers, the Guardian and the Telegraph

On Friday, Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko bragged that his forces had destroyed part of that military convoy. There were several different Russian responses in different reports: 

  • There was no Russian military convoy in Ukraine.
  • The Russian military convoy was in Russia, not in Ukraine.
  • It was a Ukrainian military convoy, successfully attacked by pro-Russia separatist militias in Ukraine.
  • Ukraine's government is making the claim because it wants to escalate the crisis.
  • The whole report was "some kind of fantasy."
The Guardian correspondent again visited the site, and found the dirt road to be well-traveled. He also witnessed at least 50 armored personnel carriers in the region headed toward toward the border.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that Russia made an "incursion" into Ukraine and that NATO sees a continuous flow of Russian weapons into the country. 

An interesting interpretation was heard by an analyst from Teneo Intelligence that I heard quoted on CNBC: 

The multiple crossings at Izvarino [border crossing] in daylight and within sight of the international press suggest that they wanted to be seen, most likely to test the reaction of the international community. ... The Russian separatists control several border crossings with no media presence. These could have used by military vehicles instead.

The implication is that Russia wanted the military convoy to be seen and attacked, possibly to provide an excuse for a Russian invasion. The truth is that nobody knows what the Russians are planning, but the increasing military activity near the Ukrainian border is causing many to believe that, with the pro-Russian separatists close to losing to the Ukrainian army, the Russians will take some military action to protect them.

Meanwhile, Russia's 280-truck "humanitarian convoy" remains parked near the Ukrainian border, and anything is possible this weekend. Guardian (London) and Bloomberg and VOA

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, West Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Cost, Nigeria, World Health Organization, WHO, Russia, Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Teneo Intelligence 

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