MTN gets proactive to help fight Ebola

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BR Ebola 449 EPA Nigerian health workers in protective clothing wait in an emergency ward as preparation for receiving any emergency Ebola patients. Eleven people in Nigeria have contracted the Ebola virus with fears it may spread through Africa's most populous country. Photo: EPA

MTN Group was working with authorities in west African countries that had been caught in the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, the cellular operator said yesterday.

MTN spokesman Chris Maroleng said the telecoms giant had also set up a number of interventions to assist staff, their families and communities in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – the west African countries where it operates.

ArcelorMittal said on Friday that it had declared a force majeure on a project that planned to triple its iron ore production in Liberia because of the Ebola epidemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday that the Ebola outbreak had now killed 1 069 people.

SAA said it would continue flying to west Africa, in line with the position adopted by the WHO and the International Air Transport Association.

The UN health agency’s emergency committee on the Ebola outbreak said “there should be no general ban on international travel or trade” to the region.

SAA said it had stepped up measures aimed at protecting its passengers, crew and ground staff in west Africa.

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) said it was working closely with the Department of Health and the SA Civil Aviation Authority to monitor the situation vigilantly and ensure the correct measures were in place.

It said: “As part of screening measures in place, Acsa’s hub airport, OR Tambo International, has thermal scanners that are managed by the department to detect high body temperature. King Shaka International and Cape Town International are currently using other screening measures that include questionnaires and visual inspection.”

Nigeria, where MTN is the largest telecoms operator, reported its 11th case of Ebola and third death yesterday.

Dianna Games, a leading commentator, author and columnist, and an executive member of the SA-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, said a considerable number of South African companies were operating in Nigeria. However, they did not have a significant number of expatriate staff from this country.

“I imagine they are taking precautions. The main risk is being confined in an aircraft, where people are sitting next to each other,” she said.

According to Proudly South African, an agency that promotes the country and its products abroad, other South African companies that are operating in Nigeria – now the biggest economy in Africa – include Power Giant, Eskom Nigeria, SAA, SABMiller, Standard Bank, MultiChoice, Oracle, Pep Retail Stores and Shoprite Checkers.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a note yesterday that the outbreak of Ebola in the region risked having a direct financial effect on government budgets via increased health expenditures that could be significant, and an indirect effect arising from the Ebola-induced economic slowdown in government revenue generation in a region where budgets were already hindered by low tax collection.

It said: “If a significant outbreak emerges in the Nigerian capital of Lagos, Africa’s most populous city, the consequences for the west African oil and gas industry would be considerable. Nigeria is the largest oil producer on the continent.

“A major outbreak would impair the indigenous workforce and likely prompt international oil companies to evacuate their expatriate personnel, resulting in significantly curtailed oil production.”

Korean Air Lines said it would suspend flights to and from Nairobi from Wednesday to prevent the spread of Ebola.

It added that it would determine whether to resume the flights based on any change in conditions.

This followed an announcement by the WHO, in which the agency classified Kenya as a “high-risk” country for the spread of Ebola.

Kenya was vulnerable because it was a major transport hub, with many flights from west Africa, a WHO official said.

Martyn Davies, the chief executive of Frontier Advisory Services, said the outbreak of Ebola, along with the medical challenges, also posed a potential economic problem for Africa because of the perception it created among the international community.

“Africa is being tarred with the same brush; the perceptions are potentially far more economically damaging” than the facts, he said.

Davies added that Kenya was far removed from the epicentre of the outbreak but the perception was that the whole continent was reeling from the disease.

“People see Africa as Africa, if you know what I mean, but the impact of malaria, for example, is far more devastating than Ebola, but travelling in Africa is not suspended because of it,” he said.



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