Investment in malaria elimination is an investment in business
Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, discusess the benefits for businesses by investing in Malaria elimination.
Malaria stops children from going to school, and adults from going to work. It puts enormous pressure on our healthcare systems. It prevents us from profiting from the land where malaria-infected mosquitoes are present. It deters foreign investment and tourism from overseas and it obstructs business development. It promotes inequality, hindering sustainable economic growth and it’s a leading cause of mortality across Africa, halting thousands of people from fulfilling their potential every year.
I could continue, but the fact is this: we need to put a stop to the millions of cases of malaria that wreak havoc with health, impede the growth of the private sector and often consume the largest portion of African countries’ health budgets – and we need to do it now.
This week the World Health Organization (WHO) published the World Malaria Report 2019, an annual report summarizing global progress against malaria. The report shows that malaria is increasingly a disease of poverty and inequity, with the most vulnerable, particularly pregnant women and children under five, at greatest risk of dying from a mosquito bite. In fact, a child still dies of malaria every two minutes.
When you look at the global picture, Africa by far carries the largest burden of the disease. Just five African countries - Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Mozambique and Cote d'Ivoire – make up for half of the world’s malaria cases. In fact, over ninety per cent of global malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa, costing the continent an estimated US$12bn per year.
The return on investment
When achieving malaria-free status is associated with a 5% higher GDP/capita, African businesses only stand to gain from prioritizing the eradication of the disease. According to a recent report from the Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication, even a small increase in malaria spending for the most affected countries results in large return. For Nigeria - which accounts for a quarter (25%) of global malaria cases - the Commission found that increasing government malaria funding by 0.01% of GDP could boost GDP by $0.3 bn per year. Meanwhile, another report from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication showed that scaling up the reach of effective malaria control tools to reach 90% of people by 2030 in the 29 highest burden countries would result in an estimated US$283bn return that would far outweigh the associated costs of $35bn.
These two landmark reports on malaria eradication both confirmed that a malaria-free world can and should be achieved, and that the benefits of malaria eradication will greatly exceed the investment needed to reach it. However, this will only be possible if we stay ahead of the evolving parasite. As the malaria parasite evolves and reoccurs, the less we do to control it, the more of our resources it demands. We must prioritise researching, developing and scaling up transformative tools, to combat growing drug and insecticide resistance and prepare us for the next set of challenges in the malaria fight. This will be critical for transforming how we beat this disease and further integrating malaria interventions into African health systems.
We have achieved a lot over the past two years. Four countries have been certified as malaria free and another five are either at or close to achieving zero malaria cases and deaths. Progress is being made to strengthen country capacity to collect, analyze and use real-time quality data. The highest-ever amount of pledges from African countries were made to the Global Fund for the 2021-2023 period, and African Heads of State and Government made commitments to increase investments in domestic financing. Without global investment and action against malaria, malaria deaths and cases would be significantly higher, but we must step up the fight to realise our shared vision of a malaria-free world.
How can the private sector play its part?
Business leaders have a responsibility to support the malaria fight. Whether it’s through financing of prevention and treatment to protect the local workforce, to private/public healthcare partnerships, or even via more innovative solutions. One example of an innovative funding mechanism led by the private-sector is M2030, which engages businesses across the Asia-Pacific region to become advocates for malaria elimination, while simultaneously raising awareness and funds among the general public.
Closer to home, digital payments platform Wari supported Senegal’s “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign, through an innovative donation platform. This enabled Senegalese citizens to help finance efforts such as training for community champions. Whatever the business, it’s clear there is a huge opportunity for innovation, skills and technology nurtured by the private sector to be leveraged and applied to broader social challenges.
It’s important to recognise that malaria is a challenge that affects us all, from country leaders to individual citizens, and the private sector is no exception. The private sector has a vested interest in a healthier country, improving conditions for staff, customers, and national infrastructure. It must play a role in energizing national goals by bringing more resources to the table and partnering on local and national projects, to leverage the opportunities that malaria elimination brings.
By eradicating malaria, we will not only save countless lives but will ultimately free up our precious resources, unlock trillions of dollars in economic potential and let the world know that Africa is open for business. Zero malaria is possible, and it starts with all of us.
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5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.