News Headlines – African business takes on malaria :

News Headlines – African business takes on malaria :

An African bank, communications giant and popular chicken restaurant chain are taking on malaria, saying Friday that their business expertise might be the missing weapon in the fight against a disease that kills 1 million annually.

South Africa’s Standard Bank, cell phone company MTN and Nando’s restaurants _ all in business across Africa _ say they know how to get information and services to customers despite Africa’s weak infrastructure, and can use their experience to help fight against malaria.

As part of the United Against Malaria campaign, Standard Bank will provide its employees with nets and easier access to treatment, MTN will help deliver nets to areas that are difficult for distribution and Nando’s will sell bracelets to raise awareness and funds.

The United Against Malaria campaign is an umbrella for aid groups using South Africa’s World Cup as a platform to raise funds and spread messages about malaria treatment and prevention.

Africa is the continent hardest hit by malaria, and this will be the first World Cup held here. Nine of every 10 malaria deaths a year are in Africa, most of which are children.

Tony van der Nest, who directs Standard Bank’s health programs, cited estimates that malaria reduces Africa’s GDP by at least $12 billion every year. At Standard Bank, he said, work hours lost because some of its 10,000 employees across Africa were sickened by malaria cost the bank 45 million rand (about $6 million) last year.

Standard Bank has pledged to ensure its employees at risk of the disease have bed nets to protect them from malaria-carrying mosquitoes and access to treatment. He said the bank had not yet calculated what that would cost, but believed it would be much less than what it was losing due to malaria illnesses and deaths.

Tshepo Ramodibe, a senior MTN manager, said he believed the goal of halting malaria by 2015 was in reach, now that he is seeing increased cooperation among aid groups, governments and business.

Ramodibe said, however, bed nets sometimes sit in warehouses because aid groups can’t distribute them. MTN, he said, has the “execution culture” necessary to get cell phone masts up across Africa, despite bad roads.

Christina Barrineau of United Against Malaria said Nando’s, known for irreverent ads poking fun at South African politicians and mores, brought a “cool factor” to the effort that could spread messages further than finger-wagging from experts. Continued…

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