Many developing countries still levy tariffs on mosquito nets, thereby discouraging their use and contributing to the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue. Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, the paper shows to which extent such tariffs are in place and, based on existing elasticity figures, calculates the cost of this policy. It is estimated that tariffs on insecticide-treated bed nets have reduced demand by some US$ 7 million between 2011 and 2015, equivalent to around 3.1 million bed nets. This has contributed to some 2.9 million malaria cases and over 5,000 fatalities during this period. The paper discusses various policy implications of this finding, including whether tariff concessions (e.g. for local relief organizations) are more effective than a general zero-tariff policy. It is argued that concessions give rise to a process that is bureaucratic and only partially compensatory for the cost incurred. The introduction of a new six-digit tariff line specifically for mosquito nets with HS 2017 will facilitate a zero-tariff policy on bed nets. By the same token, policy makers should address remaining non-tariff barriers that affect the importation of anti-malarial products.
malaria tariffs public health trade policy development