The effect of neo-colonial ideology on African herbal and scientific breakthrough: the case of coronavirus/

Since corona virus (COVID-19) was declared a public health emergency of international concern on the 30th of January 2020 by world health organization (WHO), almost every aspect of intra and international socio-economic activities of many countries have been critically affected. According to CNN health, as of May 19, 2020, global recorded cases of the novel corona virus were 4.8 million while global death stood at 322,000 and in the absence of no vaccine, the world is still counting.

Scientific researches aimed at discovering the vaccine to this global pandemic is in high gear but the pandemic seems to have overwhelmed every effort put in place to either checkmate or curb it. The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved Nivaquine, Plaqueril and Chloroquine as emergency drugs for the treatment of certain cases of COVID-19 infection in teen and adults. However, World Health Organization (WHO) has posited that there is no definitive evidence that these drugs work for the treatment of COVID-19 and that there are also risk of serious side effects such as Renal and Liver damage as a result of the intake of these drugs. In the same vein, on the 24th of April 2020, FDA warned the public about the danger of taking these drugs because of report of heart rhythm problems in patients.

As of March 19, 2020 when Donald Trump recommended the above anti malaria drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 the death rate was 3948 and the death rate stood at 32379 as of 1st of May which means that a total of 28431 people have died as a result of COVID-19.  The foregoing figures leave one with doubt with regards to the effectiveness of the recommended anti malaria. Again, this has left scientist all over the world with the assignment of carrying out more research in order to discover a vaccine that is more potent in the treatment of COVID-19.  

Africa is not left out in this fight to discover the vaccine for the treatment of this global pandemic. In Tunisia for instance, they have developed a robot that is capable of taking pulses and checking and oxygen levels and by so doing, doctors and nurses in hospitals caring for corona virus victims can make a virtual bedside visit without coming close to the victims. This will help to ensure that medics are also protected from COVID-19. Also, Rwanda has developed a robot that is capable of monitoring the recovery status of COVID-19 patients, as well as keeps their medical records, thus reducing personal contact with patients, increasing timeliness and efficiency in the ongoing fight against the virus. Senegal has successfully produced coronavirus one dollar test kit that is capable of producing result in 10 minutes. In Nigeria, a researcher at the University of Benin has produced a scientifically tested ventilator.

While other African countries are working assiduously to discover a vaccine that can cure COVID-19, Madagascar has shocked the world with their herbal drug which according to them can cure COVID-19. The COVID-Organics infusion is derived from artemisia – a plant with proven anti-malarial properties – and other indigenous herbs. According to Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina this herbal drugs could prevent and cure the disease. The declaration of this herbal drug as a potent drug for COVID-19 has been greeted with criticisms from different institution and countries. However, in a press release titled “ECOWAS Commission and WAHO refute alleged endorsement of CVO medication”, West Africa Health Organizationi (WAHO) posited that they support rational traditional medicine practices and product but they have not approved the herbal drugs from Madagascar for the treatment of COVID-19. In the same vein, World Organization has not approved the drugs and instead, they have warned that the drug has not been scientifically proven as a potent drug for COVID-19. At the moment, in the world of COVID-19 science has failed most countries that believe so much in it.  We have over 295,445 global COVID-19 deaths and US, UK, Italy, Spain and France are among the counties with highest death cases. When people you learn on for help are helpless, you re-strategize for help.  

Over the years, a lot of people have been made to believe that anything from African is inferior and this has shaped our ideology even in the medical world. Madagascar is among the very few countries that have the least COVID-19 death and it is quite unfortunate that many African leaders are adamant to adopt the Madagascan herbal drugs but are quick to adopt Chloroquine after it was recommended by Donald Trump, the president of US. A lot of traditional medical practitioners especially in Nigeria has demonstrated that they have the cure for HIV but Government around Africa spend millions of dollars annually for the importation of antiretroviral drugs and countries where such drugs are imported from will continually frown at traditional medical sources in order to continue to milk Africa. This kind of mentality has not only frustrated many traditional medicine researchers in Africa but has killed their zeal for further research. Corona virus vaccine is a high sought after vaccine with potential great economic gain to the country that finally discovers the vaccine. So, the reason why any drug from African will not be adopted is not farfetched. At the same time, it will be considered a slap on the face of the world powers if the highly sought after cure for corona virus finally comes from Africa but it is a dangerous game to play at this time when considering the persistent upsurge in the cases and victims of Corona virus. The world is in danger and needs cure irrespective of the continent the cure is coming from.

Since science has failed the world at the main time, and according to the US, the interest of world Health Organization (WHO) has been politicized, Africa must learn to believe in Africa and jettison the ideology that scientific breakthrough is not possible in Africa. The efficacy of herbal drugs in healing all manner of diseases cannot be overemphasized as Africans has lived from generation to generation with the aid of these herbs. We must not out rightly rely on the judgment passed by world powers concerning our drugs where we have highly qualified scientist in Africa.  Unfortunately, Africans have lost faith in African scientist and this was part of what colonialism has made us to believe and neo colonialism is enforcing it.   Instead of doubting the relevance of herbs in Africa, ECOWAS should strategize methods for further researches in order to properly integrate these herbal discoveries in our medical system and not to join WHO to express disapproval over most herbal pioneered made in African drugs countries.  African leaders must learn to sponsor and reward scientific research and this includes traditional medical research. The stigma world powers and their agencies have instilled in made in African drugs and their researches must be jettisoned by African.

Nwanneh Emmanuel is a graduate of University of Abuja and can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..