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India China rivalry shifts to Africa

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By Harshmeet Singh

One can’t help but think of a possible ‘Chinese angle’ behind India’s offer of a $10 billion credit to the African nations. The reasons are plain and simple. Ever since the two Asian giants embarked on a crescendo of economic growth, the battle for monopoly over the resource-rich African continent has come out in the open. Apart from the vast proven reserves of oil and gas, the world’s second largest continent also boasts of enviable deposits of uranium, gold, silver, diamonds, copper and iron. Though China has denied any rivalry with India on the African issue, it would be naïve to believe that there isn’t more to it than what meets the eye.

With a continuously rising population and rapidly depleting natural resources, Africa’s relatively underutilized mineral wealth is a key attraction for many industrialized nations across the world. Though countries like USA and Japan have also tried to get a piece of the cake, China and India seem to be the front-runners in the race for becoming Africa’s closest partners in the coming years. In terms of numbers, China has the upper hand. With a $200 billion investment in different African nations, China has firmly placed itself as the foremost ‘well wisher’ of Africa. In comparison, according to WTO, in 2013, India’s investments in Africa touched $50 billion. Apart from the investments in infrastructure, China has also offered assistance to the African nations in the areas of education and training. The magnitude of such assistance far outnumbers India’s efforts.

The numbers in bilateral trade also highlight a similar story. The African-Chinese bilateral trade stands at $108 billion, as compared to the Indian African trade of $40 billion. But smartly enough, India isn’t trying to compete with China on the economic front. It has rather taken up the cause of capacity building and human resource development in the African nations, thereby fostering the people to people connect between India and Africa.

Over the past 5 years, more than 25,000 students from the African countries have been given higher education scholarships in India. Indian army also trains officers from many African nations, such as Lesotho. India is also offering its expertise in solar energy to countries like Mozambique, to help the country tackle its power woes. Underlining India’s strategy, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, “The key area of interest is going to be the Indian investment in infrastructure. The government of India is giving a significant amount of resources for the development of infrastructure in the African continent. They have given us (Ethiopia) $700 million in concessional loans. India could have used this money for its own people. But this is indicative of the quality of special relations between India and Africa,” In many ways, the battle for Africa can be termed as a battle between China’s economic might and India’s soft diplomacy.

The African leaders, on their part, are basking in the new found limelight. With assistance flowing in from all sides, they are trying their best to keep both the Asian giants happy for as long as possible. This was reiterated by Katureebee Tayebwa, a member of the Ugandan High Commission in New Delhi, when he said that, “We [Africa] are happy that there is intense competition between India and China to gain African markets.”

 

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Thousands of Africans Fatally Affected Due To Fake Drugs

In Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies.

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Drugs, Africa
A street vendor sells illegal and false drugs in a street of Adjame in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. VOA

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, Africa.

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 hospitalized — sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.

Africa
Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods. Pixabay

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.

Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the World Health Organization (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.

Africa
Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ – mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.

The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, WHO says, making it the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods. Its impact has been devastating.

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.

Africa
Misuse of antibiotic drugs have lead to the threat of antimicrobial resistance, Pixabay

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 tonnes 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.

Also Read: Trump Presents Proposal To Lower the Price of Specific Drugs

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. (VOA)