West exploiting Africa’s untapped herbal medicine market

Zimbabwe is working on a traditional medicine lobby group to encourage government to invest in the manufacturing of medicine from African herbs.

A director of traditional medicines in the Health and Welfare ministry, Onias Ndoro, said the lobby group idea came after realising that Africa was failing to tap fully its huge herbal medicine market in the continent, which the West was effectively exploiting.

“African governments are not investing in traditional medicines. The countries lack the capacity to develop herbs into drugs,” said Ndoro.

Yet according to the World Health Organisation, 80% of the African and Asian population depend on traditional medicines for primary health care.

“Currently, 50% of pharmaceutical drugs are from plants but it is baffling to realise that herbs in their raw form are considered ineffective and evil,” said Ndoro.

“The presentation and packaging for traditional medicines in Zimbabwe and Africa is very poor, with a few exceptions from countries such as South Africa. This makes us susceptible to counterfeits,” said Ndoro.

“Herbal medicines generate a lot of income in Asia and Europe,” he said, adding that research had shown that a new anti-malaria drug, developed from a plant in China, had the potential to be 10 times more potent if grown on African soil.

West stealing ideas

Elizabeth Mandy Mazicho, a registered herbalist, accused western countries of stealing ideas and exploiting the African herb medicine opportunity that exists on the continent.

She cited male circumcision as an African concept that was now being promoted as a western idea of reducing HIV incidences.

Help Age Zimbabwe Director, Priscilar Gavi, said there was need to deal with negative perceptions of African medicine which was often associated with witchcraft. He said there was need to promote traditional healthy life styles, which existed in the past.

A HelpAge International research in Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe showed that there was lack of collaboration among traditional health practitioners due to lack of mutual trust and lack of inadequate knowledge.

The research, however, showed there was potential for close collaboration in improving access for health services at community levels because traditional healers were viewed influential.

Shuvai Mtore (60) in Mudzi said her clients preferred visiting her at night because of stigmatisation and pointed out that more people were turning to traditional healers because it was cheaper.

Mtore, whose healing powers were identified when she was 12, said she received clients from as far as Botswana, Mozambique and Harare who consulted her on infertility, cancer and sexually transmitted diseases among others.

Post published in: News
  1. Barbara Lina

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