President Bush handed out hugs and bed nets in Tanzania's rural north on Monday, saying the U.S. is part of a new international effort to provide enough mosquito netting to protect every child between one and five from contracting malaria in this east African nation (Time).
The coverage of the Tanzania stop on the President's Africa trip featured a stop at the A to Z Textile Mills, a local manufacturer of bednets. The news accounts I saw were notable for their lack of controversy - not a mention of paid vs. free distribution - and a focus on the bottom-line: the success of a multi-pronged approach in saving lives.
The visit at A to Z was remarkable as this company has achieved status of what could go right with private sector solutions to health problems: African entrepreneurs creating jobs while improving the health of millions. However, it is also a company that could stand to lose the most if policy-makers are not paying attention; the good news is maybe they are in this case.
Brian Trelstad at The Acumen Fund blog provides four ideas of how policy changes in the allocation of funding for malaria control and prevention might benefit economic development in the region:
- Give preference to African manufacturers or suppliers of anti-malarial commodities.
- For long-lasting bednets, Global Fund-supported projects should award contracts on the basis of delivered costs, not factory prices.
- Begin to set aside subsidies for the private distribution of nets to complement the free distribution programs.
- Anticipate the problem of recycling the nets now. In five years, Africans will be throwing away 100 million used bednets a year.
Exploring the intersection of public, private and civil society in comprehensive malaria control and prevention (whether it be through creative capitalism, social businesses, or a Total Market Approach) is one of the more challenging and rewarding (and sometimes frustrating and maddening) places for social marketers to be these days.
[Image from The Acumen Fund.]