By Dipo Olowookere
Pan-African financial institution, Ecobank Group, has spearheaded an initiative aimed to put an end to the scourge on malaria on the continent.
The lender with operations in 33 Africa countries recently launched the first-of-its-kind Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative.
The bank worked together with other organisations like the Dakar-based not-for-profit strategic communications and advocacy organization, Speak Up Africa, and the United Nations on the campaign.
The initiative supports the Pan-African Zero Malaria Starts with Me Movement, led by the African Union and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria launched two years ago today by African Heads of States at the 31st African Union Summit in Nouakchott.
The collaboration will support malaria-affected countries across the continent, starting with Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal by advocating for stronger political will, increased funding, and stronger targeted disease elimination responses. The campaign’s objectives are three-fold:
Foster domestic resource mobilization for sustained financing of malaria control and elimination programs
Mobilize businesses and business leaders to contribute to the reduction and elimination of malaria;
Leverage Ecobank’s networks and partners to reinforce or create collaborative platforms.
“Ultimately, ending malaria will increase prosperity across Africa, by creating a healthier workforce that can drive economic growth. The Ecobank Group is thrilled to collaborate with Speak Up Africa, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and the African Union on the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative, and to use its position as a platform for coordinated action against this treatable and preventable disease”, says Paul-Harry Aithnard, Regional Executive UEMOA, Ecobank.
Originally launched in Senegal in 2014, Zero Malaria Starts with Me engages political leaders, the private sector and communities to take action to protect themselves from malaria, and the new initiative will continue to progress this mission. To date, 15 countries across the continent have rolled out their own national Zero Malaria campaigns.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over $10 billion is needed to implement national strategic plans for malaria control in 30 African countries over the next three years.
However, despite all the efforts made by governments, funding for the fight against malaria remains a challenge. An annual $2 billion in additional global funding is required to reach all those at risk of malaria, outlining the importance of private-sector engagement.
“To become the generation to end malaria, it is crucial that we increase funding to fight this disease to protect everyone at risk. There is an incredible opportunity for the private sector to join the fight, and we are thrilled to see the Ecobank Group leading the way with the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative.
“By increasing private-sector funding and engagement, we will unlock valuable resources and mobilization, that will go a long way in helping us rid the African continent of malaria once and for all”, highlights Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.
Malaria remains one of the continent’s deadliest diseases, with more than 400,000 fatalities in 2018 alone. Malaria not only impacts the health of communities across Africa but prosperity too, as the disease limits economic growth and increases poverty amongst the workforce.
Amira Elfadil Mohammed Elfadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs, the African Union, comments, “We are incredibly proud to play our role in the Zero Malaria Starts with Me Movement, and this new Business Leadership Initiative is an important step to engaging Africa’s flourishing private sector.
“The fight to end malaria continues to be one of our continent’s biggest challenges, but our people have shown incredible commitment to end suffering and achieve progress against this deadly, but preventable disease. We hope that other organisations join our movement and support this noble cause.”
Although global investments in the malaria fight have helped to save 7 million lives and prevent more than 1 billion cases of malaria since 2000, COVID-19 now threatens these hard-won gains. WHO estimates that in the worst-case scenario, the new virus could double malaria deaths in 2020.
“Everyone has a role to play in the elimination of malaria, which is what the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign embodies.
“Private sector participation in malaria control and elimination is key, and Ecobank Group is a leader who is well-placed to bring more like-minded partners and resources to the table.
‘Together, we can work to move malaria higher up on the political agenda by creating a strong network for action. We call for more businesses to join us in our mission of freeing communities from the burden of malaria”, concludes Yacine Djibo, Executive Director, Speak Up Africa.
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