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IFC supports small enterprises to cope with Ebola

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 By Ibrahim Tarawallie (DEJA-SL)

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – yesterday (19 November) delivered hygiene and educational materials to ten small and medium enterprises through the West African Venture Fund, as part of wider efforts to help Sierra Leone’s private sector combat health and financial risks posed by the Ebola outbreak.

The materials, made available through IFC’s Conflict Affected States in Africa Initiative (CASA), were presented to participants at a training workshop on Ebola prevention hosted at Hotel Barmoi. They include: Veronica Buckets, soap, boxes of bleach, medical thermometers and educational posters, to help control the spread of the Ebola, which has killed approximately 1, 240 people in Sierra Leone and taken a toll on the economy.

West African Venture Fund’s representative, Amara Gegbai, said, “This contribution from IFC will help ensure that our clients’ business activity can carry on as safely and normally as possible. We support a lot of smaller businesses across Sierra Leone with loans and training and their continued operations are vital to the overall health of Sierra Leone’s economy, especially in this challenging time.”

Mr. Gegbai said the workshop on Ebola was invaluable, especially as the outbreak continues to pose a serious challenge to the country’s socio-economic development, particularly small and medium enterprises, who he said have been adversely affected.

IFC’s Resident Representative for Sierra Leone, Mary Agboli, said, “As a long-standing partner with the West African Venture Fund, IFC is committed to helping Sierra Leone’s private sector thrive, even as Ebola slows business activity and trade. This contribution is a small part of a much wider effort involving many institutions designed to stop Ebola’s spread and allow normal social and business activity to continue in Sierra Leone and the region as quickly as possible.”

She expressed hope that at the end of the workshop, participants will be able to share what they have learnt, as well as indicate how the IFC can help them develop their businesses.

IFC has a strong partnership with West African Venture Fund and has helped the institution increase its support for smaller businesses and expand financial services to underserved parts of Sierra Leone, the organisation said in a press release.

To help businesses in the wider region, IFC previously announced a support package consisting of at least $450 million in commercial financing that will enable trade, investment, and employment in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The private sector initiative will include $250 million in rapid response projects, and at least $200 million in investment projects planned to support post-Ebola epidemic economic recovery.

The initiative, IFC said, also includes a $75 million Ebola Emergency Liquidity Facility to fund critical imports for Ebola-affected countries.

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