Africa’s richest man and the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has called for improved funding to fight the malaria scourge in the country, stating that the effects on the nation and her economy are devastating.
Speaking yesterday in Lagos when the Dangote Foundation, which he chairs, led other stakeholders in launching a private sector Engagement Strategy against Malaria (PSESM), he said: “In addition to direct costs to businesses and the economy, it indirectly damages the economy through the deterioration of human capital, and loss in savings, investments and tax revenues. This is clearly too high a cost to society and to the economy.”
His remarks came on the heels of the 2016 Philanthropy of the Year award won by the Dangote Foundation at the All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) held at the weekend in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The awards ceremony is the initiative of CNBC Africa and ABN to recognise and reward outstanding African companies for their performance in 2015.
According to a statement from the organisers of the awards, a total of Africa’s nine best business leaders were celebrated at the 2016 AABLA at the exclusive all Africa finale, held in Johannesburg and attended by prominent leaders of businesses drawn from across the continent, ambassadors and the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura.
At the West African regional stage of the awards held in Lagos on October 20, Dangote Foundation emerged winner of the Philanthropy of the Year award, setting the stage for its emergence as overall winner of the African Philanthropy of the Year award.
Receiving the award, the Chief Executive of Dangote Foundation, Ms. Zouera Youssoufou, thanked the organisers for the honour accorded the Foundation and Dangote Group.
Represented by the Chief Executive of Sephaku Cement, South Africa, Pieter Fourie, she said the belief of the Chairman, Dangote Foundation recognising that “to whom much is given, much is required”, led him to set up his Foundation back in 1993.
She explained that the Foundation in the last two years had grown and was restructured to have a greater impact, adding that the $1.25 billion endowment by Alhaji Dangote has made it the largest private philanthropy in Africa.
Youssoufou stated that the Dangote Foundation is focused on improving the livelihoods of the most vulnerable Nigerians and Africans, focusing on health, education and the economic empowerment of women.
According to her, the Foundation was the single largest contributor to the fight against Ebola in Nigeria and with the African Union, is working tirelessly to provide relief for the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Northern Nigeria as a result of the insurgency.
Meanwhile, Dangote Foundation mo0nday in Lagos led other stakeholders in launching a private sector Engagement Strategy against Malaria (PSESM).
PSESM, code named “Malaria to Zero” has the task of eliminating malaria by 2020.
The launch of the blue print in Lagos, which was spearheaded by the Dangote Foundation, saw the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, making a passionate plea to private sector operators to help the government in the efforts at stamping out malaria in Nigeria completely, because the government alone could not succeed without the assistance of corporate firms.
The collaboration with the organised private sector, he stated, had become imperative given that over 30 million insecticide-treated nets used in Nigeria yearly, as well as over 80 per cent of the anti-malaria drugs in the country are imported, hence the need to look inwards to ensure that the drugs are manufactured locally.
He said: “We have been engaged in a series of advocacy which has yielded results, but advocacy is not enough, many people would have been bitten before coming under the insecticide treated-nets.
“We also need research and we realised that we can’t do it alone. That is why we are engaging the private sector. We need its discipline and efficiency in the local production of the drugs because that can generate employment in the country.”
The minister explained that over the last decade, substantial progress had been made in the control of malaria in Nigeria through significant investments from government and development partners.
Also, the supply and distribution of anti-malaria products has increased nationwide, he said.
According to Prof Adewole, over 100 million long-lasting insecticide treated nets were distributed within the last seven years to protect over 28 million out of the 33 million households in Nigeria.
In his remarks, Dangote lamented the effects of the malaria scourge on the nation and her economy.
He said that Nigeria’s transition from malaria control to elimination would provide a compelling opportunity for Nigeria to reflect on its aspirations, take stock on the progress, and inspire bold, innovative approaches with complementary public private partnerships to disrupt poor malaria outcomes.
Dangote noted that the private sector could play an important role in mobilising domestic resources, capabilities, innovation and advocacy platforms to catalyse progress in achieving Nigeria’s malaria pre-elimination agenda.
To lead by example for private sector active participation in achieving the task of eradicating malaria from Nigeria, Dangote, who is the National Malaria Ambassador, said he was committed to using his conglomerate, the Dangote Group of companies, as an example of what companies in Nigeria should be doing.
He disclosed that henceforth there would be “malaria education for my staff at all of our business locations, distribution of prevention tools and supplies to our workers in the factories and in the fields”.
Dangote said he co-founded the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), which is focused on mobilising the private sector across one coordinated platform to leverage private sector capabilities, advocacy, innovation and resources, and to complement government efforts in advancing health outcomes.
Other prominent people he had brought on board, according to him, include Microsoft founder, Mr. Bill Gates, and other prominent business leaders in Nigeria comprising Mr. Jim Ovia (co-chair), Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede (Co-founder, Access Bank Plc), Mr. Herbert Wigwe (CEO, Access Bank Plc), Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate (co-chair), Mrs. Sola David Borha and other companies that had joined him in support of PHN.
Dangote called on more private sector leaders and companies to join the “Malaria to Zero” campaign and pool resources that would have an impact on a scale that is greater than the underlying corporate initiatives against malaria.
Dangote promised that he would continue to use his voice to bring attention to the fight against malaria, disclosing that he had recently accepted an invitation from Bill Gates and Ray Chambers to join them on the End Malaria Council.