Opinion: Malaria Vaccine Will Increase Travel, Remove Trade Barriers In Africa

Opinion: Malaria Vaccine Will Increase Travel, Remove Trade Barriers In Africa

Many South African business leaders say that malaria is among the top reasons they do not travel to other African countries.

The world’s first malaria vaccine will undergo trials in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi in 2018, possibly heralding victory over a disease that still kills close to 500,000 people a year, mainly Africans.

Although health is a cardinal element of the human development index, this is not a health story, but an economic and a human story. Africa’s bid for economic self-reliance stands to benefit.

From Independent Online. Opinion piece by Victor Kgomoeswana, author of “Africa is Open for Business,” media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, and weekly columnist for African Independent @VictorAfrica.

The test will be conducted on babies and toddlers between 5 month and 17 months, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and funded by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

We could one day look back at this malaria vaccine breakthrough and realize that it was the best thing to happen to Africa in a long time.

Afro-optimists perennially wish that African countries would do more trade with each other, replacing aid. Aid, as we know, brings humiliating conditions.

Currently, U.N.’s African Renewal online magazine estimates intra-Africa trade at “10 to 12 percent of Africa’s total trade; comparable figures are 40 percent in North America and roughly 60 percent in western Europe”.

More than 80 percent of our exports are shipped overseas, mainly to the E.U., China and the U.S., according to the African Renewal report.

It is an old refrain: these exports are cheap raw materials and natural resources, which return to us as expensive gadgets and other finished products.

Intra-Africa trade is not as low as it is solely because of poor interaction among Africans.

It is mainly the result of anti-African trade policies by African countries, poor infrastructure and high costs of exports and imports. Still, unless Africans start interacting with each other by visiting different countries, it is unrealistic to expect trade to flourish.

South Africa is home to 40,400 dollar millionaires, more than twice the 18,100 millionaires in Egypt, 12,300 in Nigeria and 9,400 in Kenya, according to the Africa Wealth Report.

Between 2006 and 2016, the number of dollar millionaires in Mauritius grew by 230 percent; Ethiopia by 219 percent, Rwanda by 107 percent, Uganda by 97 percent and Kenya by 93 percent.

To facilitate trade, these millionaires must travel to the respective countries of their counterparts.

Many South African business leaders have told me that among the top reasons they do not travel to other African countries is malaria.

Tourism arrivals in Africa and Asia rose 8 percent in 2016. That is way above the global average growth rate of 3.9 percent.

These two regions feature the highest malaria risk, as mapped out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Africa by far outstrips Asia-Pacific.

Defeating malaria at least removes one of the barriers to travel.

Travel will be less risky. Apart from saving the lives of Africans, the likely increase in travel between the different African countries will reduce the cultural distance between Africans.

Provided the infrastructure and intra-Africa trade policies are up to scratch – this will certainly boost intra-Africa trade.

Read more at Independent Online.