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African business leaders set up Ebola fund

African business executives have agreed to set up a fund to boost efforts against the Ebola epidemic that has infected nearly 13,300 people and killed more than 4900 in west Africa.


Meeting at a business roundtable convened by the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the executives agreed to support the union with a $US28.5-million ($A30.8 million) contribution for the dispatch of 1000 health workers to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak.

AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the business executives were responding to an AU plea for a continent-wide response to the Ebola epidemic.

“It was a very successful meeting,” Zuma told reporters on Saturday.

“They (business leaders) … bring different skills to this response.”

The African Development Bank will manage the funds, slated to come from firms in the banking, energy, mining and telecommunication sectors.

The executives also announced a pan-African mobile telephone campaign that would allow 700 million subscribers to make donations with their mobile devices.

The fundraising campaign, set to kick off December 1, would be conducted using a common mobile code set up by the telecommunications firms, whose executives attended the roundtable.

Steve Masiywa, the founder of pan-African mobile phone operator Econet Wireless, said firms in the transport and insurance sectors had pledged logistical support for the campaign.

“This is not about big business,” Masiywa told reporters.

“It is about Africans contributing funds for a response to additional health workers.”

India’s Bharti Airtel and another telecommunications firm from Switzerland also agreed to join the campaign to bring in contributions from India and across Europe.

South African businessman Patrice Motsepe praised the roundtable for mobilising business leaders, who he said had been slow to respond to the outbreak because they weren’t engaged at the earliest opportunity.