Dutch companies invest in Ebola-affected countries

Dutch companies are keen to invest in West African countries affected by Ebola, according to foreign trade and development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen, who is currently visiting Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea with a delegation of 31 Dutch companies and organisations.

This is the first trade mission to the affected countries since the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic. Ms Ploumen commented, ‘We’ve always said “Isolate the disease, not the countries.” Ebola has not yet been eradicated, but it’s now under control and the affected countries are open for business. By investing now, we can help create more work, a better infrastructure and a stronger healthcare system in the future. So that an epidemic like the recent one never happens again.’ The trade mission participants are active in different fields, including agriculture, water, logistics, life sciences and health care.

Today the Dutch delegation is in Sierra Leone, which before the epidemic had an economic growth rate of 20%. Since Ebola this percentage has fallen to 6%. During a roundtable meeting with businesses and politicians, Dutch company The Waste Transformers signed an agreement for generating energy from waste in Sierra Leone. In addition, VEKA Shipbuilding and IML closed a deal to build two ferries and Natural Habitats undertook to invest in an organic palm oil plantation and help thousands of small farmers to improve their yields. The Dutch organisation Sierra Leone Central Union (SLCU) also signed an agreement with the Sierra Leone government to involve Sierra Leoneans living in the Netherlands more actively in the development of their country of origin. Finally, Ms Ploumen signed a cooperation agreement on behalf of the Dutch government between Sierra Leone, Guinea, Rwanda and Ghana to strengthen local health systems and equip them more effectively to deal with epidemics like Ebola.

SMEs
The Netherlands recently opened up the Dutch Good Growth Fund to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to obtain investment financing to boost sustainable local development and employment. It also opened up the DRIVE programme to these countries to help fund investment in local infrastructure and provide scholarships for students from the Ebola-affected countries to study in the Netherlands. Ms Ploumen explained, ‘We have a long-term vision: investing in the capital resources of the affected countries, so that their people have a better future. This also means improving local tax systems so that these countries can generate more income to invest in care and education.’

Yesterday, the minister and her trade mission visited Liberia, where they attended various networking events and a seminar about the risks to international entrepreneurs involving the environment and land rights. Today's activities in Sierra Leone include a visit to a shipyard and a brewery, both of which exemplify corporate social responsibility. Ms Ploumen commented, ‘Companies that do business here need to be well informed about the problems and the potential impact on their activities. In that regard, our businesses have a very good reputation because they really do invest in the local community – creating jobs, training people and sharing knowledge.’

Tomorrow the delegation will visit Guinea. Besides the economic programme, Ms Ploumen's agenda includes political issues such as migration, human rights and democratisation.

Karel Doorman
The Netherlands was closely involved in the aid operation mounted during the Ebola outbreak, contributing a total of €48.8 million. In addition, the joint support ship HNLMS Karel Doorman was twice sent to the stricken area with emergency aid, and three Dutch mobile laboratories and 50 technicians were deployed to help with Ebola testing in Sierra Leone and Liberia.