Scrap Tax for Malaria Investments, 2 African Presidents Say

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon inspects a bed net, one of the tools used to fight malaria, at Mwandama Millennium Village in Malawi. Photo by: U.N./Evan Schneider

The global malaria fight’s success is tied to tax and tariff removal, the presidents of Tanzania and Uganda say.

Anti-malaria commodities, most of which are produced outside of Africa, are charged with taxes and tariffs when they are shipped and distributed from African ports. This leads to a reduction in the overall amount of goods that can be purchased, as well as delays in distribution, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni explain.

“The problem with imposing taxes and tariffs on essential anti-malaria commodities is that they hurt our poorest citizens, who cannot afford to purchase nets and medicines in the private sector, and must rely on public distribution. Essentially, imposing taxes and tariffs on malaria drugs and commodities taxes Africa’s already fragile health system and makes malaria prevention and treatment less available to the poor,” the two presidents write in an op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal Europe.

In Uganda and Tanzania, the removal of taxes and tariffs on all anti-malaria commodities led to low prices of mosquito nets in local markets. Demand for the nets increased, and more small firms were encouraged to produce the product, they say.

Kikwete and Museveni argue that removing taxes and tariffs altogether is “by far the most equitable and effective solution.”

The two add: “Some countries have opted to grant waivers or exemptions for donated goods, but the reality is that obtaining these waivers can be time-consuming and expensive. In some countries, legislation requires that exemptions be renewed every year, and this process can cause months of delay.” 

The two presidents also call for enhancing customs procedures to ensure that public health commodities are correctly identified when they reach the ports.

“This is important not only to ease the flow of goods into countries, but also to maintain important quality standards as we battle the global problem of counterfeiting and sub-standard products that can lead to drug resistance,” Kikwete and Museveni say.

Meanwhile, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said combating malaria is key to improving women and children’s health and attaining other Millennium Development Goals.

“If you continue to see malaria control as an integral part of reaching the MDGs… of building strong health systems… of improving your people’s well-being… then the success we have seen to date will continue, and grow,” Migiro said during the July 26 meeting of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance in Kampala, Uganda.

Investing in the fight against malaria is helping nations reach the MDGs on reversing malaria and other major diseases and child and maternal mortality, she said.

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.