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[WASHINGTON] The World Bank's private sector arm pledged US$450 million on Wednesday to support trade, investment and employment in the three West African countries affected the most by the deadly Ebola outbreak.
The announcement from the bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) brings total World Bank commitments for Ebola to nearly US$1 billion in the past three months, an unprecedented rapid response for a development institution that has been accused of dragging its feet on project approval in the past.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, a doctor and anthropologist, has led the bank's response to the virus, which has killed almost 5,000 people, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. "The fear swirling around Ebola has the potential to do long-term harm to businesses globally, and especially in the Ebola-affected countries," Mr Kim said in a statement. "IFC .. will find ways to help boost trade and investment in West Africa, which will be essential to ensure that private companies continue to operate and sustain employment under difficult circumstances." About US$250 million of the new IFC funds will go towards rapid response projects, providing support to small and medium-sized businesses in the region, including US$75 million in emergency liquidity for six banks IFC already works with.
The remaining US$200 million is committed for projects to support the countries' recovery after the epidemic, IFC said in a statement.
The World Bank had previously pledged US$500 million for countries hit by the epidemic, and warned Ebola could sap more than US$32 billion from West Africa by the end of 2015 if it spreads beyond Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.