It’s not pure altruism. Almost 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa production comes from West Africa – notably: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon – countries close to the outbreak.
The WCF funding is going to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Caritas, which are playing a critical role in efforts to control the virus.
Bill Guyton, president, World Cocoa Foundation, said: “The spread of Ebola is a serious concern to WCF and our member companies…
“We recognise that many rural communities in West Africa, including those where cocoa is grown, need support to find sustainable solutions to economic and social problems that may hinder their ability to tackle threats such as Ebola.”
So far, the virus has not been seen in Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire, the two main producing countries, but, inevitably, fear of the potential impact has already had an effect on cocoa prices.
Of course, the Ebola epidemic is not only affecting the cocoa supply chain. Liberia is a big exporter of rubber and iron ore. Guinea’s main export is aluminium ore, while Sierra Leone is major exporter of iron ore, titanium ore and cocoa.
A group of major employers in Liberia have formed an organisation, the Ebola Private Sector Mobilisation Group (EPSMG), to help combat the spread of the virus.
The group represents 45 the largest private employers in West Africa including: ArcelorMittal Liberia, Equatorial Palm Oil, Exxon Mobil, Golden Veroleum, Putu Iron Ore Mining, Total Liberia, Monurent, Aureus Mining Company, Chevron and Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Marcus Wleh, head of external affairs and corporate responsibility at ArcelorMittal Liberia, who chairs the EPSMG, said the group will focus its activities on four areas of concern: social mobilisation and awareness, logistics, public partnership and early recovery.
Apparently, this kind of private sector activity is unprecedented in Liberia. Dr Lawrence Bropleh, head of legal affairs and corporate communications at Lonestar MTN, said: “Everyone asks what the private sector is doing, but for the first time we have a cohesive and holistic effort from the private sector to help the fight against Ebola.”
The human cost of the Ebola outbreak has already been terrible, and unless it is checked, it could get worse.