UNDP Ebola Recovery Conference

Speech by H.E. Hans Docter, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo. Special envoy on Ebola. New York, 10 July 2015

Your Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends, thank you for the opportunity to be here today. Even after the epidemic a lot of work will remain as communities and economic structures need to be restored. We want to be a partner in economic recovery.

This week I was with our Minister Ploumen for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. We were not alone: we were accompanied by around 30 Dutch representatives interested in doing business in these countries. They represented private-sector companies, knowledge institutions and NGOs from a variety of sectors: port development, agri-food, water, logistics, and life sciences and health.

Why were they there? Because just before the outbreak, in 2013, the most affected countries were among the African Lions because of their increasing growth rates. Companies from all over the world were interested in investments and trade with these countries.

We have to recognize that it is not easy to do business here right now, but we witnessed again the great potential of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Access to finance is a big problem and we need to invest in revitalising and improving the business climate. During the World Bank spring meeting our Minister therefore pledged EUR 5 million to the World Bank Trust Fond.

By way of further encouragement, the Netherlands’ instruments for private sector development are open to all three countries. This means access to finance for SMEs. It means tailor made business advice. It means co-financing of large infrastructural projects.

As a follow up to the trade mission, we will host an investor’s conference at the end of this year, to trigger more investments.

We have noticed earlier this week, that foreign companies were very willing, but still hesitant to come back to the region. For people to freely move around, to have confidence in the future, the region must get to zero cases. The countries are on the way: Sierra Leone and Guinea are rightfully using a community-focused strategy to get in control of the transmission chains. It is excellent to see how Liberia is handling the new flare of Ebola cases with great professionalism and also Sierra Leone is getting in control because of contact tracing. But we have to stay alert.

We will also have to think about coping with future crises. We have to ask ourselves: Which are the lessons learnt from the current crisis? How to increase our health preparedness?

As EU Commissioners Stylianides and Andriukatis said in their letter to the WHO: WHO is taking more leadership but has to improve its humanitarian division in order to better cope with future health crises.

We also want to contribute to a more resilient health system, by facilitating Ghana and Rwanda, to excellent examples of bringing health care close to the people, to help strengthening the health care systems of Sierra Leone and Guinea.

This week’s trade mission showed that the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are strong and willing to turn things around. I see real possibilities for them to contribute to a better future.