Thursday, January 05, 2006

Grasping the nettle

On Tuesday, Channel Four News Presenter Jon Snow had an article in the Gruaniad on the fight against Malaria in Africa.
The numbers are impossible to digest. Three million people a year die from the disease, most sufferers contract it two or three times a year and, whenever they do, are so struck down that they can neither work nor tend to their families for several weeks at a time. So if 2005 was the year of Africa, what happened to malaria?
Significantly, the solution appears to be market driven:
Inside the A to Z factory, blue longlife [anti malarial]netting cascades from 50 huge industrial looms. There are about 1,200 African workers working to save the lives of other Africans. But Anuj Shah, who runs the company is no do-gooder. He's in it for profit and is determined that net making in Africa is a seriously commercial activity. Currently producing 3m of these nets a year, he expects his new factory, which is under construction nearby, to start producing 7m a year by April. After that he hopes to expand to 20m - a tenth of Africa's entire need.
Using free technology transfer.

But mark you, this is a project to cut Malaria by 2015 - if the technique described by Snow is so effective, why must we wait until it is profitable to build up capacity to do so? Further, note, the market couldn't have been built without that technology transfer, a non-market transaction.

As Snow indicates, the effective demand - the capacity for people to buy these nets - isn't there, and so a layer of charity is needed to distribute these produced for profit nets.

If this problem were dealt with with the urency of, say, a heart operation on Casualty we wouldn't wait anotehr ten years to build up that capacity, we'd get to 200 million nets by next year and get them out there.


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