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Defeating malaria could boost African economies

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Defeating malaria could boost African economies
Anopheles mosquitoes require bodies of water, possibly small and seasonal, for their aquatic larvae and pupae. Suitable habitats range from ponds to water tanks, swamps, ditches and puddles. The adults can however live in dry regions such as Africa's savanna and Sahel. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Defeating malaria could boost African economies

African economies could experience cumulative growth if UN targets to reduce malaria are met.

According to research in a new report titled “The malaria dividend” by Malaria no more UK, African countries could see a GDP increase of USD127-billion dollars if the UN target to cut malaria by 90% from 2015 levels by 2030 is met.

This represents an average boost of nearly USD16-billion per year to African economies, which adds up to more than 10% of what all countries in Africa spend on healthcare in a year.

The research also showed that reaching this goal could generate an additional USD31-billion in exports to some of the most affected malaria endemic countries in Africa.

Countries like Nigeria could see a GDP boost of almost USD35-billion between 2023-2030, for Kenya and Angola this would amount to about USD9-billion, largely due to the size of their economies and high prevalence of malaria.

“Increasing investments towards ending malaria will save millions of lives and grow African economies by boosting trade and tourism. This will have knock-on-benefits for G7 countries and benefit trade between African countries,” says Sherwin Charles, CEO of Goodbye Malaria.

Now that there is an African Continental Free Trade Area, projections in this report “bodes well for Africa’s economy and trade relations between African countries,” adds Charles.

Defeating malaria could boost African economies
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Strengthening healthcare infrastructure

This economic dividend could be partly used to further strengthen the health sector through enhanced diagnostic capacity, healthcare workforce and stronger primary healthcare infrastructure.

These figures provide further rationale for G7 countries, as key supporters of interventions to drive down malaria, to continue to invest in ending the disease.

Reaching the UN’s Social Development Goals (SDG) mlaria target could generate an additional USD4-billion in exports for G7 countries – almost USD1.5-billion for the US and more than USD450-million for the UK.

Dr Astrid Bonfield, CEO of Malaria No More UK, says that the rise in global trade with African countries also allows other nations to keep the disease at bay by sustaining malaria research and development, funding and continuing to invest in life sciences more widely to tackle other infectious diseases.

Defeating malaria could boost African economies
Lifecycle of the Anopheles mosquitoe

Impact on children and economies

Malaria currently claims the lives of over 600,000 people a year, and The World Health Organisation estimates that malaria interventions have contributed to the prevention of 2 billion cases and nearly 12 million deaths between 2000 to 2022.

Whilst children represent around three quarters of global malaria deaths, infections also impact working age people and can constrain economic growth through employee absenteeism, diminished income, reduced income tax and additional healthcare costs.

Children suffering from malaria can also experience frequent absences from school, hindering their educational progress and eventual economic contribution, as well as creating an additional burden on healthcare services and for the parents caring for them.

Charles stresses that “malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that needlessly costs lives and holds back social and economic progress in endemic countries.”

This is why he believes, “G7 nations and malaria endemic countries should work hand-in-hand to drive greater investment in tackling malaria through their own domestic funding and through a fully funded GAVI and Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” (The Global Fund)

G7 partnerships are crucial

The report comes ahead of the G7 Summit hosted in Italy on 13-15 June. Under her leadership, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has made partnerships that stimulate economic growth in Africa a priority, including investments in the continent’s health systems.

The G7 has helped establish global health initiatives such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which plays a vital role in increasing access to vaccines, and The Global Fund, which has long been critical to increasing access to tools and treatments to combat malaria.

For the first time, Gavi will have two effective malaria vaccinations available for its next investment case due to launch on 20 June.

When accompanied by tools such as next-generation bed nets, these vaccines will play an important role in revitalising the fight to end malaria, which has stalled in recent years.

Even though upfront costs seem substantial, the reality is that the benefits of reaching all the goals far outweigh the costs. With the right investment, appropriate malaria control strategies can be implemented worldwide to boost economies and save lives.

Defeating malaria could boost African economies

Defeating malaria could boost African economies
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