Fake medicines are killing thousands across Africa - can they be stopped?

Seven African countries are meeting to criminalise selling fake drugs
Health leaders from seven African countries are meeting on Friday to sign an agreement criminalising trafficking in fake drugs.

Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication. 

The representatives from The Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Uganda are hoping that law specifically targeting fake medications will do the trick.

Denis Bukenya is a health rights activist who’s working with the advocacy group Human Rights Research Documentation in Kampala.

(Photo: Drugs are displayed for sale along the road in Lagos, Nigeria. Credit: Getty Images)

Togo's president to seek another term

Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Faure Gnassingbé
Getty Images
Faure Gnassingbé has been in power since 2005

The governing party in Togo has chosen incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé as its candidate for elections next month making it likely that his family's decades-long rule will be extended.

He was voted into power in a disputed election in 2005 - taking over from his late father Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who had been president for 38 years.

In recent years there has been growing anger over the family's complete domination of the political scene.

Eighteen months of mass protests hurt the economy and led to negotiations with the opposition in 2018.

A law was passed last year introducing a two-term presidential limit.

But the law did not take into account Mr Gnassingbé's first three terms allowing him to potentially stay in power until 2030.

France's ex-colonies move to loosen currency ties


Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

A man holds up his fist during an anti-colonial demonstration against the regional CFA franc on the Place de l'Obelisque in Dakar on September 16, 2017
Getty Images
Some civil society groups have waged a long campaign for the scrapping of the CFA franc

Eight West African countries have agreed to cut some of their financial links with France in a move which will see the end of a currency known as the CFA franc.

Under the deal a new currency called the eco is to be launched. It will still be linked to the euro.

The decision was announced on Saturday during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to the region.

For many people living in West Africa using the CFA franc in shops or markets has been a daily reminder of the lingering colonial link with France.

Critics said the system enabled France to benefit long after the blue, white and red flags were lowered at independence especially as it could easily access the region's mineral wealth.

Whilst there has long been a campaign to ditch the currency, which has been in use since just after World War Two, some economists argued that the CFA franc did provide a degree of financial stability.

Being pegged to the old French franc and then the Euro helped the seven former French colonies and Guinea Bissau to keep inflation down and avoid the prospect of Zimbabwean style financial meltdown during turbulent times.

Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara described the decision to scrap the currency as a historic day for West Africa and other politicians in the region will also celebrate the move.

Along with Ivory Coast, the decision affects Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

In a few months’ time these countries plan to have a new currency. Although it will still be pegged to the Euro, the African countries using it will no longer be forced to keep half of their reserves in the French treasury in Paris.

The vast majority of people living in the eight countries are under the age of 30.

So they may be less willing to listen to the politicians who see this move as cutting a colonial link. They will judge its success purely on whether it leaves them wealthier.

Sailors abducted in Togo

BBC World Service

Pirates off the coast of Togo have kidnapped four crew members from a Greek oil tanker, just days after a similar kidnapping in the waters of neighbouring Benin.

The Togolese navy said that armed attackers boarded the Elka Aristotle near the port of Lome after shooting and wounding the ship's security guard.

Those abducted include Greek, Georgian and Filipino nationals.

The ship's operator says the rest of the crew and the ship itself are safe and they are working to ensure the prompt release of their employees.

West Africa's Gulf of Guinea is seen as a high risk area for hostage taking - usually for ransom.

On Saturday nine crew members were abducted from a Norwegian-flagged cargo ship 15km (nine miles) off the coast of Benin.

'Milestone' in polio eradication achieved

A child receives a polio vaccination drop.
There is no cure for the virus but the polio vaccine protects children for life

The second of three forms of the polio virus has been eradicated, experts have announced.

There are three types of the wild polio virus, which, while scientifically different, cause the same symptoms, including paralysis or even death.

The world was declared free of type 2 four years ago - and now the World Health Organization (WHO) has said type 3 has also been eradicated.

But type 1 is still circulating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The last case detected case in Nigeria, where it was also endemic, was in 2016.

It has been seven years since the last case of type 3 polio was detected, in northern Nigeria.

Since then, experts from the Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication, of which the WHO is a member, have watched patterns of polio cases to be sure type 3 had been eradicated.

But Dr Moeti added: "This job is not finished until wild polio virus type 1 is globally eradicated, along with concerning outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived polio virus."

Children who do get immunised are given a weakened form of the polio virus so their body can build up immunity to the disease. But they also then excrete the virus, which can then spread in the community.

There are currently outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio virus in 12 countries: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Zambia.

Woedikou Afi Apéafa: 'Female players have potential but we are denied visas'
Togolese footballer Woedikou Afi Apéafa says women are denied the chance to travel for tournaments.

Togo passes new law to clamp down on protests

Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Opposition protesters in Lome, Togo - January 2019
Critics see the move as a way of stifling the opposition

MPs in Togo have passed a law which puts further restrictions on demonstrations following a wave of opposition rallies.

The government says the law is to make the country safer but the opposition sees it as an effort to stifle growing dissent fuelled by the fact that one family has held the presidency since 1967.

Under the new law, no protests will be allowed on main roads, in city centres or near government buildings.

They can not take place before 11:00 or after 18:00.

As has happened in recent years, the Togolese authorities may ban them anyway for other reasons.

The threat from terrorists is the reason the government has given for the new law.

But there is clearly an effort to keep a lid on growing dissent.

In a country where one family has been in power for so long, it is not surprising that people are becoming increasingly frustrated.

A tweaked constitution allows President Faure Gnassingbé to stay on until 2030 - by then the Gnassingbé family would have been in charge for 63 years.

Togo caps presidential terms

Louise Dewast

BBC Africa

Togo's parliament has voted to reinstate the two-term limit for presidents, but the change does not apply to the current leader.

President Faure Gnassingbé will be eligible to run in future elections in 2020 and 2025, meaning he could potentially remain in power until 2030.

Opposition politicians wanted the new cap to apply to President Gnassingbé but the ruling party proposal won out.

The announcement was made shortly before midnight after 90 out 91 MPs cast a secret ballot in favour of the constitutional revisions.

President Faure Gnassingbé
The changes do not apply to current President Faure Gnassingbé - seen here at his 2005 inauguration

The matter has stirred controversy in recent years.

Yet the changes are not so surprising given that two-thirds of the representatives are allied to the governing party, following last year's legislative election which the opposition boycotted.

During a debate in parliament, several MPs threatened to boycott the vote over a proposal to also extend the presidential mandate to seven years.

In the end, lawmakers voted to stick with five years.

The Gnassingbé family is the longest-running political dynasty in Africa - Faure Gnassingbé succeeded his father in 2005 after his more than 50 years of autocratic rule.