The idea for a Malaria Museum came to Marco Herbst as he stared into a puddle on a street in Maputo, Mozambique. Wild haired and talkative, Herbst tells the story with the enthusiasm of the natural entrepeneur. He had had early success with an internet start-up in Ireland. His simple recruitment website, started just as he left college, and as dotcom mania ruled, had been spotted, and rapidly bought over, by one of Ireland’s richest men. Herbst was happy to take the money and hand over the reins as he already felt a need to change direction. “I wanted to do something for the greater good’ he says.
This feeling led him to take up a position as a voluntary teacher in South Africa. He is unashamed to admit that he soon became bored by the job, ‘it just didn’t match my skill set, I’m an entrepeneur by nature, what can I do?” Still eager to make a contribution he began to follow Bill Gates’ blog about the Bill and Melinda Gates Charitable Foundation: ‘it struck a chord, I would hate to say I recognise myself in Bill Gates but I could see here was a man who was trying, in a realistic way, to use his money and his skills to solve big problems, and doing so by concentrating on first world solutions. He was looking at developing world problems with the eyes of a business man….and I could identify with that’.
After finishing his teaching job, he travelled around Africa when his interest became piqued by the problem of malaria. The disease has been a part of daily life in many parts of Africa for millenia. Since it has been eradicated from the first world it has become largely ignored.
Herbst wanted to get involved in the fight agains the disease. One day as he walked around Maputo he saw thousands of mosquitoes larvae breeding in a pothole on the street. “I know I’m not the person to help fill in these potholes but what else can I do?” he thought. Herbst realised that the solution to the disease was as much about raising awareness in the developed world as it was about distributing bednets in the developing world and so the idea of a malaria museum was born.