As scientists in advanced countries race to invent vaccines and medicines to tackle the novel coronavirus, the highly commendable research efforts of scientists in the African nation of Madagascar has gone unnoticed by the international community.
When the Malagasy president, Andry Rajoelina, announced the invention of Covid-Organics, a blend of herbs for treating Covid-19, made by a group of Malagasy scientists, the news was greeted with skepticism because its efficacy had not been proven. But why hasn’t the so-called advanced countries offered to test the herbal remedy to determine its effectiveness as a potential treatment for Covid-19? Could it be an attempt to belittle Africa’s contribution in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic?
Covid-Organics is a herbal tonic made by scientists at the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research, and it is purported to have curative and preventive properties, but scientists and governments around the world have ignored its potential as a possible treatment for Covid-19.
In a world where frantic efforts are being made to flatten the curve of the pandemic and develop a potent vaccine or medicine, one would expect that there would be excitement about this Malagasy innovation and its potential as a treatment for Covid-19. The herbal remedy is made from a plant called Artemisia that is popularly used as a prophylactic against malaria. What makes this herbal solution special is that, of all the global efforts being made to find a cure or treatment for covid-19, it is the only African-led invention that is a direct result of research carried out by African scientists, but so far, it hasn’t received the kind of publicity that was generated when chloroquine or hydroxychlorine was touted as a possible treatment for covid-19. I put it down to racism and the western propagated notion that Africa is a continent where nothing good but hunger, famine, disease, war and chaos emanate from.
If chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, is championed as a potential treatment for covid-19, I see no reason why covid-Organics that is derived from a plant with prophylactic properties against malaria cannot be considered as a potential treatment. It is not surprising that western countries have refused to acknowledge the giant strides made by African scientists in the fight against covid-19. However, what is surprising is the reluctance of other African countries to appreciate the fact that this invention puts Africa on a pedestal. Of all the 54 African countries, only a handful, Nigeria, Tanzania, Comoros, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Chad and Equatorial Guinea have asked for and received supplies of Covid-Organics. It is understandable that a lot of countries have reservations about using a herbal remedy that hasn’t been clinically tested and certified safe for use by international standard.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a veiled criticism of Covid-Organics when it a warned that people should refrain from using drugs that haven’t been clinically tested. The warning could be the underlying reason why a lot of African countries are unwilling to import the herbal tonic from Madagascar. But would there have been such skepticism about the efficacy of Covid-Organics if it had originated from the west? Absolutely not! It’s sad that Madagascar is the only African country that has sought to provide a solution to a global problem. This could be the reason why other countries aren’t taking this invention seriously. The African continent is not seen as a place where solutions emanate from. To the outside world, we are a continent bedeviled by a multiplicity of problems, ranging from abject poverty to disease and war, and as such, it is hard for the world to picture the African continent as a center of scientific innovation. It’s hard for the world to picture Africans as a people that are brilliant, innovative and creative. It’s hard for the world to consider an African innovation as good enough and worthy of recognition. We need to change this narrative. But as long as our continent remains poor and largely underdeveloped, we will not be taken seriously. T
Covid-Organics will not gain worldwide acceptance anytime soon even if its efficacy as a treatment for Covid-19 is established for the following reasons: 1. It all boils down to racism. It will be an affront to imperialists and racists in the West and elsewhere that a pandemic struck the world and African scientists came to the rescue. A potent herbal made by Africans defeats the narrative that Africans are not scientific geniuses. Their goal is to maintain this narrative at all cost even if it means denying countries ravaged by Covid-19 pandemic a herbal solution that has the potential to save lives. As far as they are concerned, Africa must be denied an opportunity to bask in the glory of its invention. 2. If Covid-Organics is proven to be an effective remedy against covid-19, it would augur well for the scientists who made it, the Malagasy government and Africa as a whole. It would be patented and billions could be made from its sale. This will not sit well with pharmaceutical companies around the world who are rushing to develop a vaccine or a medicine to treat covid-19 so they can cash in.
There is a rumour that coronavirus was created in the lab and purposely spread so that a vaccine that has already been created would be sold and billions of dollars would be made. Of course, this rumour remains unsubstantiated, but it’s enough reason to raise eyebrows as to why the west is reluctant to consider covid-Organics worthy of a clinical trial. 3. Accepting that Covid-Organics has any merit puts an end to the wrongly held notion that only Caucasians and Asians have a monopoly of scientific knowledge. A lot of black believe that they are not as smart as white people or Asians. As painful as this is, it is a deep-seated belief amongst some black people. Some of my friends have told me how the world would have been devoid of modern technology and civilization if there weren’t white people. There are lots of black people who still believe that the exploitation and colonization of Africa and the enslavement of its people was a good cause. They argue that Africa was a continent inhabited by cannibals, and that human sacrifice was the norm until Europeans arrived and brought civilization and redemption. This narrative deliberately seeks to counter the fact that Africa had a vibrant civilization and that one of the earliest universities in the world is situated in Timbuktu, an ancient city in Mali.
Covid-Organics hasn’t gain traction because the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t certified it fit for use. When we lack the capability to carry out clinical tests of medicines and herbs we produce, we put ourselves at the mercy of people who always seek to rubbish our scientific breakthroughs just to frustrate us and render our efforts useless. America shouldn’t have the final say on the efficacy of covid-Organics. Even though there are international bodies that are saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that food and drugs meant for public consumption meet the required standard, such bodies cannot be trusted because they are prejudiced against African scientists and inventors.
In May, South Africa, the most industrialized country in the African continent, offered to help Madagascar test and analyse samples of Covid-Organics. Nothing has been heard from both countries. It would be interesting to know if South Africa carried out a test and what the outcome was. If South African researchers certify the herbal remedy as safe for use, it would shine the spotlight on Madagascar and the wonderful Malagasy scientists who invented it. Nations that have refused to buy the Artemisia-based Covid-Organics would have no choice but to reappraise their stance and consider carrying out their own tests and analysis. The African Union (AU) should be playing a big role in the fight against covid-19 and any research geared towards the discovery of a vaccine or drug, but unfortunately, the body isn’t living up to its expectations. I expected the body to put in a good word for Madagascar and encourage other nations to carry out their own independent tests and analysis of Covid-Organics to ascertain its efficacy. It’s not good that other countries in Africa, especially North African countries, are not even talking about the potential of the Malagasy herbal remedy.
Africa needs to have its own broadcaster with global reach. The reason why Covid-Organics isn’t getting the publicity it deserves is because all the international broadcasters are owned by countries where racism is deeply ingrained and a negative portrayal of Africa is the order of the day. They are not fair enough to give an accurate depiction of Africa without the usual stereotype, and this is why there is very little news out there about Covid-Organics. Talking about Covid-Organics would give some measure of glory to Africa and this doesn’t align with their agenda. That is why we need to tell our story or they’ll tell it for us. An African adage goes: until the lions have their own historians, the history of hunt will be will always glorify the hunter.