Ebola as an Embargo

The up and coming Ebola virus is not something unheard of in recent times. In newspapers across the globe, as thousands are being infected in African countries and territories, it is anticipated to be a new plague in some countries. Just like the bird flu scare around 2006, all health organizations are on full alert because of the possibility of a sweeping epidemic. Not only are lives at stake, but the Ebola virus is also severely affecting the development of poorer African countries and their trade capabilities- which inevitably can push those countries down further, resulting in more conflict, patterns of disruptions, and even more death than from the virus alone.

To start with the facts, the Ebola virus was officially discovered in Africa in the 1970’s. It starts with infected bats based on certain mutated genes. Their infectious droppings and/or fluids can rub off onto other animals like duikers, similar to a deer, within the African terrain. Humans or other animals can come in contact with it in a similar way, spreading quickly. Once the virus is caught by direct contact of body fluids, early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, sore throat, headaches, and etc., which are similar to many other common illnesses- making it difficult to detect at first. Symptoms such as bleeding from the nose and eyes then occur, among others, followed by death if not treated quickly enough.

In poorer, less developed countries, death is significantly more common due to the lack of sophisticated and developed medical practices. Thus far, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that it has killed more than 4500 people in West Africa and in December, up to 10000 people a week could be infected. Especially if it makes way into Nigeria, the virus could travel on to India, rich in slums with poor health care, or China, where infection control in hospitals can be lax.

While the catastrophic virus had impacted many African societies, the Ebola virus has also influenced trade and their respective countries developments. For example, in Sierra Leone, their economy has deflated by 30% due to Ebola outbreak. And in nearly all of these countries, the agricultural sector has been most heavily impacted, resulting in food shortages, pressures on prices, and rising inflation- creating little trade between these slowly developing African countries. As a result, road blocks manned by police are being used in order to stop flow and supply of goods into and out of area- essentially, a quarantine.

African countries are known for their vast majority of natural resources with miles and miles of untapped assets. This means that countries, companies, and people invested in Africa for such resources and trade agreements are heavily impacted as well- with lost profits and revenue and possible deaths due to staffing in Africa. The world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal has had its work disrupted on its iron ore mine project in Liberia, after contractors moved people out of the country. Simandou, in eastern Guinea, is Africa’s largest iron ore mine and infrastructure project. Vale, the world’s biggest iron ore producer, was involved in Simandou until April. It evacuated staff and put the rest of the workforce in the area on leave.

The amount of investments, projects, and possible revenue for African governments leaving the area are producing large deficits and many more problems for these under developed countries. The closure of borders in West Africa as well as the suspension of flights are also having a largely negative effect on trade, because it is severely limiting the ability of countries to export and import goods.

From the outside looking in, countries that are involved in trade with places in Africa are also on high alert. For instance, the spread of the Ebola virus is expected to impact the attendance of China’s largest international trade fair. It is expected that a fall in the number of foreign buyers, especially those from African countries will occur- about 500,000 buyers and sellers that usually attend the event from other countries neighboring Africa, including about 15,000 from Africa.

As we have been talking about in class, the interdependency of countries significantly impacts everyone involved, regardless of level of involvement. When Ebola first struck African countries this year in March, anyone and any country that traded with those countries began competing both for goods and services, and for future vaccines now. This domino effect is based on the threat of a widespread pandemic, which can affect trade, stocks and investments in neighboring countries, travel, and etc. Specifically speaking, due to the interdependency on all countries, inflation and prices may increase in countries infected with Ebola like Sierra Leone and Liberia, but it also will increase the agricultural prices, for example, for the countries they trade with, perhaps India, or China.

While this case does not represent conflict in terms of war and the miscalculation thereof, it does represent the broader term of capitalism and its impacts toward peace that we have been discussing thus far. International organizations like the World Bank and the IMF, and countries like India, promising $12.5 million, are all pledging to aid in these West African countries in an effort to help mitigate the spread and effect of Ebola. These impacts of trade are leading countries like India to find ways to help protect their interests, aid the many African countries affected, and hopefully bring the possible epidemic down to scale so that it doesn’t impact their goals within each respective country.

Through personal emergency management health professional contacts, not many believe that the Ebola virus will come stateside and cause widespread panic. However, the possibility is still there because of the unknown traces for some cases of the virus- seemingly making Ebola a “black box” to a certain stretch of the term, if you will, with unknown traces and an unknown means to an end.


2 thoughts on “Ebola as an Embargo

  1. Good post: you raise some important economic implications that have been left a bit short in much news coverage.

    Regarding the last paragraph: Ebola cannot really spread in a functioning healthcare system in a developed country such as the United States; there is no need to worry about it. For instance, the flu is a bigger challenge every season here in the United States. For more info, see the high-quality reporting at Vox.com: http://www.vox.com/ebola


  2. Great post relating the outbreak of Ebola to potential future conflicts. It seems that not many people focus on the economic effects this has had on numerous countries and focus more so on the sensationalist idea of a pandemic outbreak. This will effect poorer countries for sure such as the ones in West Africa, and could very well have some devastating effects if not contained within the next couple of months.


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