Interview with Julie Essiam, Ecobank Foundation
This interview is part of a series in which experts discuss key aspects of the malaria challenge– innovation, program implementation, finance and policy. We hope the series sparks conversation and encourages others to determine how they can best contribute to the fight to end malaria for good.
Follow the conversation on twitter using #GBCtalksmalaria
In your opinion, what would be some positive game changers in the fight against malaria in the next 5 years?
Increased funding allowed communities across Africa, South Asia and South East Asia to demonstrate gains in controlling the disease. Funding has increased by 10-fold in the past decade contributing to the reduction of infant mortality and pregnant women. Moreover, new partnerships, in research and development, enhanced the funding to deliver smart interventions such as timely diagnosis and treatment coupled, when required, with effective drugs, indoor spraying with safe, long-lasting insecticides.
Despite the great progress made, research shows us that Malaria control is at risk because we are in a race between science and a rapidly evolving mosquito. The game changer will come from increased domestic resource mobilization to empower communities with adequate tools and treatments for early diagnosis and treatment when applicable. We must ensure that our interventions reduce consistently the 212 million cases and 429,000 related deaths of malaria recorded in 2015.
There are two key interventions that are happening right now that will help to accelerate our common objective to end malaria for good.
First, I am very pleased to see additional focus on investments in science and technology in search for a vaccine that would allow more countries to navigate towards elimination.
Second key milestone is the launch of the Africa Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC). Launched in January 2017, Africa CDC will effectively position Africa’s engagement with its communities to provide scientific evidence and data to curb malaria and other diseases negatively impacting socio-economic transformation.
Ultimately, our work is about saving lives and be confident that investments show impact.
What do you see as the most important assets the private sector brings to the fight against malaria?
The Private Sector, by definition of its operating model, can make a significant difference with a contribution of the deployment of its skills to strengthen the current inefficiencies observed with supply chain management and logistics to effectively distribute the much-needed insecticides and Long Lasting Insecticides Treated Nets for last mile delivery. Furthermore, we have a key role in advocating for transformation in the way our employees engage with the communities in which we operate. Private sector employees are a supplemental source of resources that can lift communities by embracing a human centered design approach in delivering solutions.
Private sector alone cannot address these challenges. The private sector must mobilize its supplemental resources to complement respective government’s investment in countries where they operate. Ecobank, as a financial institution, invests in the fight against malaria through the Global Fund, an innovative funding mechanism, which has made an impact in communities through its investment case.
Moreover, domestic resource mobilization will be the engine that will accelerate our collective path to end it for good. African resources for fighting malaria in Africa should not just be about advocacy but real new funding.
What are the main challenges to funding in the malaria space?
Global Fund investment and funding for malaria has grown to USD 2.5 billion per year over the past decade but this is less than half the amount required to maintain the gains against this disease.
The main challenges come from the limitation of the current tools in achieving global eradication. The Gates Foundation is investing in high-sensitivity diagnostic tools and real-time data transfer methods to better understand epidemiological patterns of infection. It is also investing in a new range of interventions that have greater impact.
Global Fund, Gates Foundation and the private sector are strategic partners of the public sector in the fight against malaria. As a custodian of policies and regulations for program implementation, the public sector, can foster innovative mechanisms that would supplement existing funding required to end malaria. Over the next 10 years, a number of countries will attain middle income status. With the current rules, they will lose access to a number of funds. In this respect we need to ensure that we help countries maximize existing funding to make progress towards elimination of malaria thus lessening the burden to the economy.
The political advocacy and private sector mobilization should continue to ensure that we make progress towards elimination. In this progress will be through supporting innovation to reach last mile communities. Also, where applicable, private sector skills to support National Malaria Control Programs in specific areas that focus on quantifications and supply chain management for example. Ultimately, it is innovative financing mechanism to be put in place to support fight against malaria that will unleash new resources to keep the momentum and the promise.
What does Ecobank see as its role in promoting transparent and appropriate levels of financing for malaria?
We are supporting Global Fund implementing entities to ensure that they have adequate financial management skills to deliver on malaria programs. We have worked in Senegal, Nigeria, and South Sudan during the first 3 years of our partnership. We are now supporting programs in Chad and Zambia.
In addition, we are advocating across the continent and globally to ensure that the promise of the 5th Replenishment, “to end it for good” is delivered in due course. Across the continent, Ecobank is making use of its digital financial services to raise supplemental funds for malaria. We know that, reliable contributions from the private sector will expand opportunities to end malaria in our communities as well as provide the political framework to have public and private sector engagements in translating pledges to action that save lives.
Our engagement to communities where we operate, is to ensure that we leverage our core skills to enhance service delivery in health. Unlocking funding for diseases is a critical enabler of ending it. Less visible than the work done for logistics by other private companies but complementary to collective efforts to improve health systems.
As a financial institution, it is a sure way to bring in our core skills to deliver on the promise to end it for good. We know that partnerships take us a mile further when synergies are capitalized on. In this respect, we are working with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance to translate political and business determination to end malaria for good into lives saved.
How does Ecobank work with the Global Fund?
Our commitment to Global Fund is a strong partnership to enable the sustainable achievement of our mutual objective of #EnditForGood 2030. We continue to collaborate with them to support countries in their fight against the three diseases through the improvement of their financial management capacities. Together we engage in joint advocacy to keep the momentum from the 5th Replenishment in Montreal. An important part of our engagement with the Global Fund is linked to our support to implementing entities through the financial management support in partnership with Mango, a Non-Governmental Organization. We have renewed our three-year partnership with the Global Fund which will run until 2019.
Julie Essiam is currently the Group Executive for Human Resource & Corporate Affairs, for the Ecobank Group, and is also the CEO for the Ecobank Foundation. Starting her career on the business side, and then later on to Human Resources, Corporate Affairs, and now development work, the common ethos of all Julie’s work has been her continued passion for transformation and development work; whether it is developing business, developing talent, or developing communities.
At Ecobank, leveraging her role as Executive for Corporate Affairs and CEO of the Ecobank Foundation, over the last couple of years, Julie has dedicated herself to repositioning the Ecobank Group, and its Foundation as the private sector lead, and enabler of social transformation across the African Continent.
She is also the concept originator, and the founder of A4A (“Africans4Africa”), a private sector led development organization that aims to transform the African continent to achieve a thriving and prosperous Africa. Julie believes that Ecobank and other private sector organizations have an important role in leading the transformation of the African continent.
Julie graduated from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States.