Ecobank Uganda has confirmed its commitment to ending malaria by launching the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative (ZMBLI) in Uganda and joining the Malaria-Free Uganda board, announcing a contribution of US$120,000 (Shs429 million).

The aim of the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative is to mobilise private sector companies in the fight against malaria in Africa in order to achieve a malaria-free continent within a generation.

This initiative is part of the continent-wide Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign, launched in 2018 by the 55 African Heads of States at the 31st African Union Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania. The Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative supports the private sector engagement strategy of this pan-African campaign, and is currently being implemented in several countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana and Uganda, in partnership with Speak Up Africa and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.

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Welcoming the launch, Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria declared that: “We celebrate the launch of the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative in Uganda as another giant step forward in the movement to end malaria. It is crucial that we increase malaria funding and expand the effort beyond the Ministry of Health and international donors, especially by harnessing the power of the private sector.”

Understanding the importance of building on existing efforts and supporting existing structures, in Uganda, Ecobank is implementing this initiative as part of Malaria-Free Uganda (MFU), the national structure authorised by the Ministry of Health with the responsibility for multisectoral mobilisation for the fight against malaria in Uganda.

Indeed, launching the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative and joining MFU represents a convergence of aspirations between the partners and a strengthening of ongoing efforts. As Mr. Kenneth Mugisha, the MFU Board Chairman, remarked: “The MFU is honored to welcome Ecobank, under the leadership of Ms. Muliisa, to the MFU board. Ecobank is setting a strong example by not only contributing financially but also committing to work with us to mobilize others to join the cause.”

The Ecobank Uganda Managing Director, Ms. Grace Muliisa, stated that: “As ‘The Pan-African Bank’, we are committed to finding home-grown solutions to urgent public health and development issues. We are honoured to join the distinguished Malaria-Free Uganda board. To show our commitment, we are pleased to announce a contribution of USD 120,000, which we hope will inspire other companies to contribute to achieving a Zero Malaria Uganda.”

There is an urgent need for new partners in the fight against malaria, which continues to affect millions of people in Africa. Despite decades of progress, it remains one of the continent’s deadliest diseases. In Uganda, it was responsible for 21,699 deaths in 2020 (up from 17,766 in 2019) and 12.9 million cases.

Furthermore, the impact of malaria on African communities goes far beyond health. As Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda Minister of Health explained: “A single episode of malaria costs a family, on average, $9 USD or 3% of their annual income, and each episode results in 1-3 weeks of missed work. Moreover, estimates show that Africa loses roughly 4.3 billion workdays and 1.5 billion school days due to malaria annually, and that GDP growth is reduced by 1.3% in malaria endemic countries. Malaria has an overwhelming toll on economic productivity, business costs and human capital development, making it a top priority for the Government of Uganda. I am therefore pleased to extend my gratitude to Ecobank for their contributions and to welcome them to the Malaria-Free Uganda board.”

Unfortunately, malaria attracts limited attention and funding has stagnated in recent years. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that an extra US $10 billion is needed to implement national strategic plans for malaria control in 30 African countries over the next three years, again underscoring the importance of private-sector engagement. Ecobank is rising to the challenge with a firm belief that the malaria fight is a whole-of-society responsibility, and is therefore committed to being at the forefront of developing innovative and sustainable funding solutions.

Echoing the call for society-wide responsibility, Ms. Yacine Djibo, Executive Director, Speak Up Africa, concluded that: “Everyone has a role to play in the elimination of malaria, and this is exactly what the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative embodies. Private sector participation is key: Ecobank and their new partners within Malaria-Free Uganda, are business leaders that are perfectly situated to bring more like-minded partners and resources to the table.”

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