The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, the World Health Organisation (WHO) report has said. It lamented that it has become the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods with devastating impact on innocent users.
Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the WHO between 2013 and 2017 were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report, also backed by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies.
“Counterfeiters prey on poorer countries more than their richer counterparts, with up to 30 times greater penetration of fakes in the supply chain,” said the report.
Substandard or fake anti-malarials cause the deaths of between 64,000 and 158,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.
When Moustapha Dieng came down with stomach pains one day last month he did the sensible thing and went to a doctor in his hometown of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital.
The doctor prescribed a malaria treatment but the medicine cost too much for Dieng, a 30-year-old tailor, so he went to an unlicensed street vendor for pills on the cheap.
“It was too expensive at the pharmacy. I was forced to buy street drugs as they are less expensive,” he said.
Within days he was hospitalised – sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.
Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication, an E.U.-funded report released on Tuesday said. The drugs are mainly made in China but also in India, Paraguay, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.
Nigeria said more than 80 children were killed in 2009 by a teething syrup tainted with a chemical normally used in engine coolant and blamed for causing kidney failure.
For Dieng, the cost can be measured in more than simple suffering. The night in hospital cost him more than double what he would have paid had he bought the drugs the doctor ordered.
“After taking those drugs, the provenance of which we don’t know, he came back with new symptoms … All this had aggravated his condition,” said nurse Jules Raesse, who treated Dieng when he stayed at the clinic last month.
Fake drugs also threaten a thriving pharmaceutical sector in several African countries.
That has helped prompt Ivory Coast – where fake drugs were also sold openly – to crack down on the trade, estimated at $30 billion by Reuters last year.
Ivorian authorities said last month they had seized almost 400 tons of fake medicine over the past two years.
Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods, had they been sold to consumers, would have represented a loss to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry of more than $170 million.
“They are reputed to be cheaper, but at best they are ineffective and at worst toxic,” Abderrahmane Chakibi, Managing Director of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi’s sub-Saharan Africa branch.
But in Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies, which often only stock expensive drugs imported from France, rather than cheaper generics from places like India.
“When you have no means you are forced to go out onto the street,” said Barakissa Cherik, a pharmacist in Ivory Coast’s lagoon-side commercial capital Abidjan.
Egypt’s parliament approves extended presidential tenure
Egypt’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional changes that would allow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to potentially stay in office until 2034.
The changes, which must be approved by a referendum to enter into force, would also further authority of the Armed Forces in “maintaining the foundations of the civil state.”
Egypts parliament, which has 596 members, saw 485 votes in favor of the changes. The body is largely made up of supporters of the president. According to The Associated Press, the amendments will be submitted to a committee to finalize the language, then parliament will vote again.
Egyptian human rights groups are expressing alarm. Eleven groups signed a statementsaying that the amendments “effectively serve to destroy the constitutional separation of powers, concentrating all authority into the presidents hands and solidifying his authoritarian rule.”
In 2013, then-Defense Minister El-Sissi led a coup against Egypts first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, following mass popular protests against him. Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, was in office for one polarizing year.
Since then, el-Sissi has launched an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, and rights groups say he has jailed tens of thousands of his political opponents (though he deniesthat Egypt has any political prisoners). He was elected to a second term in 2018, in a race where “six potential candidates were either jailed or dropped out,” as NPRs Jane Arraf reported.
According to Egypts constitution, passed in 2014 after the coup, this term should be his last.
“The President of the Republic shall be elected for a period of four calendar years,” the constitution currently reads. “The President may only be reelected once.”
The amendments would also strengthen the presidents power over the judiciary. For example, it would allow him to appoint the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the prosecutor general, and other senior position.
Proponents of the changes say they are necessary for Egypts stability.
According to Mada Masr, earlier this month as the proposed amendments were submitted, parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel Aal said: “We are not restricting any of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, and we are not touching the principle of equality between Egyptians in regards to rights and obligations. …These amendments serve the Egyptian people and the higher interests of the state.”
But for opponents, such as the human rights groups, its another nail in the coffin for Egyptian hopes for democracy following the 2011 ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak.
“Not only do these individually-tailored provisions flout fundamental legal precepts, they also upend the peaceful rotation of power championed by the Egyptian people in 2011 to prevent another decades-long dictatorial rule similar to that of former President Hosni Mubarak, toppled after 30 years in power,” the groups said.
OPEC refutes claim that it is a cartel
The Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Dr. Mohammad Barkindo, has said the exporting group is not in the business of fixing oil prices.
This is coming as the group and its allies such as Russia have set up a new alliance but decided against creating a formal body to avoid falling victims to the United States anti-cartel legislation. A committee of the United States House of Representatives had last Thursday approved anti-cartel legislation, known as the ‘No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act’, or NOPEC, that would open up the members of OPEC to antitrust lawsuits.
Reacting to this legislation, Barkindo told Reuters yesterday that: “OPEC is neither a cartel nor involved in the business of fixing oil prices.”
“It would be a misjudgment to accuse us of such,” he said on the sidelines of an energy forum in Cairo, Egypt.
“OPEC is an open, transparent organization focused on assisting the oil markets to remain in balance on a sustainable basis, which is a fundamental requirement of investors,” Barkindo said.
“The international oil industry needs market stability to plan and invest in a predictable manner in order to guarantee future supplies,” he added.
OPEC and a group of non-OPEC countries including Russia, an alliance known as OPEC and its allies, are reducing oil output in 2019 to avoid a potential supply glut that could weigh on prices. A similar action in 2017 got rid of an earlier supply glut.
OPEC, Russia Draft Cooperation Charter
Apparently scared by the United States anti-cartel legislation for the oil industry, OPEC and its allies such as Russia have drafted a new cooperation charter but decided against creating a formal body, at least on paper.
A draft of a document – setting up a new alliance and dated January 2019 – and seen by Reuters carefully avoids any mention of sensitive issues such as oil prices, market share and production cuts.
OPEC and Russia have been cutting production together to support prices since 2017, after clinching a deal in December 2016, in moves that have provoked criticism from United States President Donald Trump.
The new draft said OPEC and Russia will discuss creating “a mechanism” rather than “an organization” when they meet on April 17-18 in Vienna, calling for the creation of an “Alliance of Oil Producing Countries”.
“It looks genuine. It’s also been updated since,” an OPEC source said without giving any further details.
The objectives of the alliance are listed as setting up “an intergovernmental platform to facilitate dialogue” and “further strengthen the collaboration in the formulation of policies aimed at promoting oil market stability”.
The objectives are due to be achieved by promoting a better understanding among its members of energy market fundamentals as well as “permanent dialogue among oil-producing countries”, according to the document.
Uganda: Pop star, Bobi Wine set to unseat President Museveni
Uganda Pop star, Bobi Wine has declared his political ambition to run for the presidency ahead of the 2021 elections that will take place in Uganda.
He told CNN that he is making plans for a bigger political stage in the country. He added that he has launched a grassroots movement for young people aimed at challenging the country’s longtime leader President Yoweri Museveni.
Speaking with CNN’s Robyn Curnow, Wine said he is “seriously considering” running for president in 2021 where he is expected to face Museveni who has ruled Uganda since 1986.
Museveni has changed the constitution twice to extend his stay in office, although he has not declared his intention to contest in the next elections.
Wine said dictatorships have thrived in Africa by suppressing young people, and getting young voters to the polls could help change the game.
“Ugandans cannot be free unless they free themselves from military rule and lawless rule,” Wine said.
“We started a campaign calling upon all people of Uganda, especially the young people that have been so apathetic to go ahead and register themselves and be voters. Not just supporters but voters.”
“We believe that by the time we get to the election which is about two years away, we will have many Ugandans registered as voters and overwhelming Museveni looks like our only way out.”
However a spokesman for the Ugandan government, Ofwono Opondo, dismissed the MP as presumptuous.
“Wine is being presumptive, perhaps to ride on Museveni’s name to gain some international attention. Otherwise, it is his right to do so if he really wants to run for the Presidency of Uganda,” Opondo said in an emailed statement to CNN.
“It’s not up to Museveni to prepare a handover. His job is to ensure elections are organized and held, regularly and on time and the winner according to the popular vote will lead Uganda,” he added.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is the leader of a youth movement calling for an end to Museveni’s 32-year-old rule in Uganda
He entered politics as an outsider in 2017 and has since proved to be a thorn in Museveni’s side.
In the same year, he ran for a parliamentary seat without the backing of a political party and won in a landslide.
The reggae sensation continues to release songs highly critical of the President and has used his star power to criticize unpopular government policies.
Authorities have banned his songs in the past and canceled some of his recent performances.
The government has proposed new regulations vetting lyrics and songs by artists before they are released, a restriction Wine said seeks to silence his voice.
“The regime in Uganda has always used various approaches to curtail personalities…after noticing music has played a big role in the opening of the minds and eyes of the people the regime seeks to regulate it,” Wine told Curnow.
Despite the restrictions, Wine said he would continue to hold concerts abroad to draw international attention to the “dictatorship regime” in Uganda.
“While the world looks at my brutalization and personal oppression I know millions of people go through similar oppression or even worse in Uganda.”
“So I want to use my circumstances to prepare that voice, so the world does not only see my oppression but looks at the oppression of all my countrymen,” Wine said.
His fight for a change in leadership has been met with equal resistance from the government.
Wine was charged with treason last year August and was only released from prison following widespread protests and intense pressure from activists and governments around the world.
The politician said he was tortured in detention, an allegation the government has dismissed as “fake news.”
US, China trade dispute affecting crude oil prices
Crude oil price yesterday headed for its biggest one-day drop in a month as a result of evidence of yet more growth in US crude supply.
This is coming as the federal government has unveiled plans to mobilize other oil and gas producers in Africa on the platform of African Petroleum Producers Organisation (APPO) to raise up to $2 billion to finance energy projects across the continent.
Further weighing on oil markets is the trade dispute between the United States and China, which looks unlikely to end anytime soon and has increasingly impacted on the Chinese economy.
However, the price is still on course for its strongest January gain for 14 years.
The global benchmark, Brent crude oil was down $1.49 at $60.15 per barrel, down 2.5 percent on the day in their largest one-day percentage fall since late December, while US futures fell $1.71 to $51.98 a barrel.
United States crude production, which hit a record 11.9 million barrels per day late last year, has undermined sentiment in the oil market, Reuters quoted oil traders as saying.
US energy companies last week increased the number of rigs looking for new oil for the first time since late December to 862, energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday.
Even with an uncertain outlook for demand and evidence of growing supply, the oil market has benefited this month from another round of production cuts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partners, as well as robust trade in physical barrels of crude led by China.
The price has risen by 12 percent so far in January, the largest increase in percentage terms in the first month of the year since 2005 when it gained 14 percent.
Investors have added to their bets on a sustained rise in the oil price this month for the first time since September, according to data from the InterContinental Exchange.
But much of the demand outlook hinges on China and whether its refiners will continue to import crude at 2018’s breakneck pace.
Industrial companies in China reported a second monthly fall in earnings in December, despite the government’s efforts to support borrowing and investment.
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