Not only was the Ebola outbreak a public health crisis, it also threw Sierra Leone’s economy into turmoil. The World Bank estimates that the country’s economy contracted by around 22 per cent between 2014 and 2015. As restrictions were placed on the movement of goods and people, many businesses were forced to shut down, or scale back their operations, leaving people afraid of losing their jobs.
How Shankerdas & Sons supports jobs
Shankerdas is a manufacturing company based in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. It employs around 1,000 people at its three factories across the city. Founded in 1939, it is one of the country’s longest running companies.
As Ebola hit, the company was facing the prospect of running at a loss or cutting its number of employees, until it received a loan from a facility set up by Standard Chartered and CDC. The money enabled Shankerdas to continue operating at full capacity through the crisis.
Since then, it has received a second loan from, which has paid for the construction of a new factory to produce bottled drinks. When it’s fully operational it will employ a further 250 people. Shan Mathew, Shankerdas’ financial controller, says the business has its sights set on new markets, so it can continue growing: “Export is a must for our company to keep going for the future.”
Most of us were thinking that we are going to lose our jobs.
Umaru Kamara lives in Freetown with his wife and five children – three of whom they’ve adopted. He’s worked for Shankerdas for nearly 26 years, starting initially as a casual worker before working his way up to becoming a floor supervisor. He now acts as a mentor to younger colleagues: “I enjoy my role – I hope by passing on my knowledge, they too can have a career progression like me.”
Umaru says that during Ebola, most of the workforce were concerned about losing their jobs. Now, though, he is optimistic for the future: “I am optimistic because there is stability now. If we can attract investment and create jobs, the future will be bright for this country.”
How we’re invested in Shankerdas
During the Ebola crisis, we partnered with Standard Chartered to set up a $50 million loan facility for businesses in Sierra Leone to borrow from. Shankerdas was one of those companies, receiving an initial loan in 2014, before borrowing again from a second CDC and Standard Chartered facility in 2016.