Following a period characterized by severe epidemics of sleeping sickness, restoration of effective control and surveillance systems has raised the question of eliminating the disease from sub-Saharan Africa. Given sufficient political and financial support, elimination is now considered a reasonable aim in countries reporting zero or less than 100 cases per year. This success may lead health authorities across the affected region to downgrade the disease from ‘neglected’ to simply being ignored. In view of the significant levels of under-reporting of sleeping sickness mortality in rural communities, this could be a short-sighted policy. Loss of capacity to deal with new epidemics, which can arise as a consequence of loss of commitment or civil upheaval, would have serious consequences. The present period should be seen as a clear opportunity for public-private partnerships to develop simpler and more cost-effective tools and strategies for sustainable sleeping sickness control and surveillance, including diagnostics, treatment and vector control.