Introduction Malaria is the largest cause of health services attendance, hospital admissions and child deaths in Tanzania. At the Abuja Summit in April 2000 Tanzania committed itself to protect 60% of its population at high risk of malaria by 2005. The country is, therefore, determined to ensure that sustainable malaria control using insecticide-treated nets is carried out on a national scale. Case description Tanzania has been involved for two decades in the research process for developing insecticide-treated nets as a malaria control tool, from testing insecticides and net types, to assessing their efficacy and effectiveness, and exploring new ways of distribution. Since 2000, the emphasis has changed from a project approach to that of a concerted multi-stakeholder action for taking insecticide-treated nets to national scale (NATNETS). This means creating conditions that make insecticide-treated nets accessible and affordable to all those at risk of malaria in the country. This paper describes Tanzania's experience in (1) creating an enabling environment for insecticide-treated nets scale-up, (2) promoting the development of a commercial sector for insecticide-treated nets, and (3) targeting pregnant women with highly subsidized insecticide-treated nets through a national voucher scheme. As a result, nearly 2 million insecticide-treated nets and 2.2 million re-treatment kits were distributed in 2004. Conclusion National upscaling of insecticide-treated nets is possible when the programme is well designed, coordinated and supported by committed stakeholders; the Abuja target of protecting 60% of those at high risk is feasible, even for large endemic countries.