At Davos Economic Forum, Sustainable Economic Recovery Seen as Key to "Post Ebola" Solutions
Submitted by: RESOLVE
Posted: Jan 22, 2015 – 10:55 AM EST
DAVOS, Switzerland and WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 22 /CSRwire/ - Today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Stephen D’Esposito, President and CEO of RESOLVE, and Chair of the World Economic Forum Council on the Future of Mining and Metals, announced the launch of an initiative to catalyze sustainable economic recovery in the three West African countries most affected by Ebola – Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The initiative, ReGrow West Africa, seeks to rally donors and investors behind a portfolio of implementation-ready economic development projects. It is being designed and executed by RESOLVE in partnership with Cordaid, a Dutch NGO, and the general membership of the Ebola Private Sector Mobilization Group, which includes more than 100 private companies operating in the region. ReGrow West Africa receives financial and technical support in its initiation phase from the German Development Agency, funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.
“We’re calling on the international community here at Davos to act now, while the epidemic is still being contained, to address the economic tragedy occurring alongside the public health crisis,” said D’Esposito. “Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea were growing before the Ebola crisis – they need to begin to grow again or millions of people will continue to suffer. Private sector companies led the initial economic response with a focus on supporting day-to-day business operations during the crisis. Building from this, ReGrow West Africa brings together private sector, development, and civil society groups to create a new wave of concrete, fundable projects.”
ReGrow West Africa is designed and mandated to support the recovery and development of the private sector in the three affected countries by building public-private partnerships to overcome early development hurdles that can block viable projects. ReGrow West Africa will work with leaders in these sectors to enable and promote projects that support the recovery, with a focus on sustainable development projects that include small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to help address a problem known as the “missing middle” within the economies of the region. “ReGrow West Africa complements the current economic recovery initiatives of government agencies, NGOs and development organizations,” said Hussine Yilla, a Sierra Leonean business consultant. “ReGrow West Africa fills a gap by identifying development-ready projects, curating the portfolio, and creating a platform for private sector partnerships.”
Peace Diamonds™, also announced today, typifies the ReGrow West Africa development model. Private and public sector partners have pledged to work together to create West Africa’s first sustainable diamond cutting and polishing factory, which is a priority for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Mines and Minerals. Currently all of Sierra Leone’s diamonds are exported to be cut and polished in other countries. The benefits of an in-region cutting and polishing factory include job and skill creation, enhancing government tax revenues, decreasing the financial incentives of smuggling diamonds, and generally improving the transparency of diamond supply chains. The project will overcome barriers including the absence of diamond processing skills and the lack of a reliable public electricity grid in Sierra Leone. It brings new value to Sierra Leone and builds new partnerships with downstream companies such as jewelers.
“Peace Diamonds is an innovative and compelling project,” said Jeffrey Wright, RESOLVE Board member, award-winning actor, and businessman who is active in development and philanthropy in Sierra Leone. “It includes a green energy system to power the factory, significant local ownership of the company that will own and operate the plant, and heavy investment in training local workers. Ultimately Sierra Leone needs to catalyze businesses such as this for its key value chains. Peace Diamonds creates new partnerships with leaders in the jewelry sector, which in turn brings more value home to miners in Sierra Leone.”
ReGrow West Africa encourages and promotes private sector projects, like Peace Diamonds, that are in various stages of development to help ensure that they are not abandoned because of Ebola and that planning and fundraising work continues now, while Ebola is being brought under control. ReGrow West Africa will move projects from the drawing board to reality and catalyze new thinking about development opportunities in these countries. When Ebola is contained, these projects will be “implementation ready” and will provide quick stimulus for regional economic recovery.
ReGrow West Africa includes an innovative direct project funding mechanism, the Mano River Union Resilience Trust, which has just received its first pledge of $1 million from a major global corporation that is active in West Africa. This donation kicks off a fundraising drive to capitalize the fund that will be initiated after ReGrow West Africa’s inaugural meetings in February at the Abidjan headquarters of the African Development Bank. The innovative characteristic of the Resilience Trust is that donations made to it will do “double duty.” Firstly, the fund will help enable private sector projects by being a source of long term equity capital. Secondly, any future dividends generated by that equity will be used exclusively as a source of financing for the governments of the three countries to invest in their public health systems, long after the current donor interest in the region has waned.
“A key component of any long term solution to the Ebola crisis is the economic development of the affected countries,” said Mykay Kamara, Executive Director of A&A Holdings, an investment and advisory firm with a focus on West Africa. “Strong public health systems go hand-in-hand with strong economies, and strong economies need dynamic and robust private sectors. This is the fundamental premise behind ReGrow West Africa and the reason why this initiative is so important, for West Africa and for the world.”