Sustained global efforts to reduce the number of malaria cases and deaths over the last two decades have saved more than 7 million lives and prevented more than 1 billion cases. Nevertheless, despite this incredible progress, malaria is still a threat to people around the world, causing more than 627,000 deaths in 2020 – with more than 90% of these deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.
In some African countries, malaria reduces GDP growth by up to 1.3% according to estimates and places a heavy burden on private sector businesses. The illness continues to affect business profits across the entire African continent and beyond, through employee absenteeism, reduced productivity and increased service costs. Malaria among company employees also increases the potential for transmission to the wider local community, which in turn has an impact on the local economy through deterioration of human capital, loss of savings, investments, and tax revenues.
Private sector participation in malaria control and elimination can boost national goals by rationalising the use of resources and strengthening the partnership around National Malaria Control Programmes.
The private sector has a clear interest in achieving malaria elimination, as a healthy workforce leads to a healthier economy. According to the World Malaria Report 2021, in 2020, funding for malaria control was estimated at USD 3.3 billion against a target of USD 6.8 billion. Thus, current funding levels will need to more than triple by 2030 to meet global targets (USD 10.3 billion per year). It will therefore be essential for the private sector to contribute to this funding for more effective control and elimination of the disease.
Multi-sectoral collaboration would support communities at risk across the continent by encouraging greater political will and funding as well as more targeted responses to malaria elimination.
In 2020, The Ecobank Group, in partnership with the non-profit organisation Speak Up Africa and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, launched the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative, which aims to stimulate private sector engagement in the fight against malaria in Africa, and supporting the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign endorsed by the African Union in 2018. The initiative is being implemented in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal and Uganda and aims to: