The Private Sector and Malaria

The East African today noted that, “Every African business in malaria endemic areas knows all about high absenteeism during the malaria season.” This opinion article goes further to state that, “Health spending cripples African consumers and governments, the tax base struggles to expand and foreign investment is discouraged by high rates of illness among workers,” referring to HIV, TB and malaria.

ghana-net-voucher-poster-sm.JPGThe solution according to the East African is, “For the African private sector to maximise these returns, awareness must be raised of effective practices in engaging health, and the benefits of partnership towards this end … Using established multilaterals like the Global Fund is an effective way for the private sector to engage health goals while maintaining business focus.”

While these are good sentiments, in reality of private or non-governmental contributions to the Global Fund have been minimal. Currently private pledges to date account for 4.4% of the total pledges ($29,928,488,771) to the Global Fund and a slightly higher 5.0% of the total paid ($18,146,056,176). One donor, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provided around three-quarters of this support.

The next largest private sources are the Product Red Campaign, which has paid 17.4% of the total private contribution, UNITAID (4.3%) and the Chevron Corporation (3.3%). These Global Fund contributions do not measure the total private contribution of global disease control, which includes, according to the Global Fund

  • Marketing campaigns and financial contributions
  • Pro bono services and core competency partnerships
  • Support for advocacy and governance, globally and locally
  • In-country co-investments and operational contributions

The private sector is an identified constituency of the Roll Back Malaria Partners Forum. According to RBM the contributions of the private sector are as follows:

  • First, the private sector possesses a breadth of expertise and implementation skills – including delivering products and programmes in the developing world.
  • Second, the private sector has a particularly important role to play in ensuring the supply and efficient distribution of drugs, diagnostics, LLIN’s and other interventions against malaria.
  • Finally, the private sector can bring the “business mindset” to the RBM Partnership, with its emphasis on good management practices and tangible results.

Clearly such contributions are not limited to financial ones and address in kind provision of expertise.The list also does not clearly identify individual focused efforts such as the Obuasi IRS program of AngloGold Ashanti, ITN donations from the telecommunications company MTN, or support from corporations like ExxonMobil to bilateral programs like the US President’s Malaria Initiative.

But back to the East African … are these contributions commensurate with economic benefits that can accrue from the major internationally and bilaterally funded efforts to control malaria? The answer probably comes down to the country level.  Private sector partners need to participate actively in each national RBM partnership forum so that their presence, expertise and of course financial help, can be felt.

PS:

Two news stories in the Washington Post shed further light on the issue. The first shows the need for increased private giving because foreign aid may be in doubt … “even the administration’s ability to provide direct climate assistance to poor nations over the next two years is in doubt because a looming budget battle with Republicans could freeze U.S. foreign aid at this year’s levels, or even cut it.”

The second highlights private sector philanthropy in other countries. “As India’s wealth continues to expand, a growing number of millionaires here are finding ways to do more for the poor, especially as cash-strapped foreign donors, including the United States, curtail aid.” Major religions in India may play a role in encouraging charity. “Indian billionaires give more than billionaires in China but less than those in developed countries, including the United States.”

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