VADUZ, Liechtenstein, August 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
West Africa was a region of war-torn countries and broken states, and highly dependent on international aid. Peace efforts and political stabilisation have led to economic growth and regional integration, but terrorist groups and organised crime networks still present major challenges, writes Professor Dr Jaime Pinto in World Review.
However, West Africa's biggest short-term challenge is dealing with the world's worst outbreak in history of the deadly Ebola virus disease.
'The most affected countries are increasingly isolated, with substantial cuts in international flights and cross-border commerce. Land frontiers are being closed,' says Professor Dr Pinto.
'Key-sectors like mining and oil, which depend on foreign investment and have substantial numbers of foreign workers, are severely affected.
'The Ebola outbreak cost Liberia`s economy US$12 million between March and June 2014 - two per cent of its national budget - according to official sources.'
Yet West Africa is also a beacon of success. Cape Verde, Ghana and Senegal stand as African models of democracy.
'Liberia has recovered following a long-running and violent civil war. Ivory Coast, the world`s leading cocoa producer, is now stable. Its former President Laurent Gbagbo was formally accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court,' he says.
'Sierra Leone registered a 20.1 per cent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013, just 12 years after the end of a war fuelled by blood diamonds. And Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to become Africa's biggest economy.'
Political stability and cheaper and improved exploration technology have seen countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Chad, emerge as oil producers.
But the Ebola outbreak is compromising economic growth prospects in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Both governments have declared a state of emergency and closed schools and markets.
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World Review author Professor Pinto is editor of Futuro Presente, a quarterly review published since 1980, and is a columnist in the Portuguese daily newspaper 'I' and the weekly 'O Sol'. He is a regular media commentator on politics and international relations and was a columnist in Portugal's main weekly newspaper, Expresso. He wrote for the Wall Street Journal in the 1980s and 1990s.
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