To round off Wessex Scene‘s Africa Month, we take a look at some of the more obscure stories that have come from the continent in recent weeks.
An addiction to cough syrup
At the start of May, Nigerian authorities closed down three of the country’s most prominent drugs companies after an investigation by the BBC uncovered illegal sales of an addictive cough syrup containing the drug Codeine. The broadcaster found that young Nigerians were buying the drug on the black market (where pharmaceutical industry workers were selling it illicitly) to get high, which is commonly achieved by mixing it with soft drinks.
The country’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (Nafdac) said it closed down the three companies as they didn’t fully co-operate with the agency’s investigation. The agency’s director, Mojisola Adeyeye, said that the firms had closed due to ‘apparent resistance to provide needed documents during our inspection’, but could re-open at a later date if their level of co-operation increased.
Codeine is often used as a painkiller, but is also an addictive opioid which can cause schizophrenia or organ failure if taken in large quantities. Addiction to the drug is a problem across Africa – cases have been reported in Kenya, Niger, Ghana and Chad.
Not quite set in stone…
A statue of Paul Kruger, South African Republic President between 1883 and 1900, looks set to be removed from the city centre of Pretoria after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said that they believed the statue is a symbol of apartheid. The party, which has threatened to demolish the installation, wants to replace it with a statue of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela and prominent figure in the anti-Apartheid movement who died earlier this year.
The EFF’s previous threats to topple the statue have led to the decision by the city’s administration to surround it with barbed wire.
Kenya takes off
At 1.30pm on Friday 11th May 2018, scientists and students at the University of Nairobi in Kenya witnessed a historic moment as the country launched its first satellite. The craft, built at the University, was launched into earth orbit from the International Space Station (ISS) as Japanese ISS crew member Norishige Kanai pressed the button which sent the satellite on its journey.
According to Peter Mbithi, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, the craft ‘will assist in earth mapping, earth observation, land use and environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, communication, disaster management, coastline and border monitoring and management of forests, livestock and wildlife’.
The vessel is potentially capable of conducting missions which previously required much larger satellites. The development of the vessel, First Kenya University Nano Satellite, began in 2016 when the University of Nairobi won a grant from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. The University’s project development team was assisted by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).
The satellite has a projected lifespan of 12-18 months, after which it’ll leave orbit and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Zimbabwe legalises medical marijuana
Zimbabwe has become the second African state to legalise the growth of cannabis for medical and research purposes. The decision follows the example set by the small land-locked nation of Lesotho, which legalised the growth of the drug for the first time last year, by granting a license to the South African company Verve Dynamics (although Lesotho has not attempted to regulate the network of illicit growers and farmers which existed prior to the Verve license being granted).
With the new law, Zimbabweans are now allowed to apply for a renewable license valid for five years, permitting companies or individuals to cultivate the plant. Before the legalisation, the cultivation, possession or use of Cannabis in Zimbabwe was illegal and punishable by sentences of up to 12 years in jail.
Morocco previously looked set to follow Lesotho’s example, after a bill permitting the growth of marijuana for medical and industrial use was proposed in the country’s parliament by an opposition party. However, the bill failed to pass due to the resignation of staunch supporter Ilyas El Omari and strong resistance from conservative religious groups. Despite this, the trade in marijuana is prominent within the country and employs around 800,000 people according to Bloomberg.
Are you making an ass of me?
Towards the month’s end, officials in Burundi quarantined a gift of 10 donkeys donated by France to a village in the East African State. The decision ignited an intense debate over whether there was a hidden message behind the gift.
The animals were purchased by an local NGO, thus given to residents as part of a project intended to help women and children in the country’s Gitega province transport agricultural materials, water and wood.
However, the government of Burundi seemed to take umbrage at the decision. A presidential adviser described the donation of the animals (which aren’t native to Burundi) as an ‘insult to the nation’, while the spokesman of the Burundi Senate President tweeted that the French were ‘taking us [Burundi] for donkeys’.
According to an anonymous European diplomat speaking to Al Jazeera, a similar initiative financed by Belgium in the country’s Riyugi province hadn’t encountered any issues. The official suggested Burundi was criticising France after it spoke out against a referendum earlier this month, which voted to allow the Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza to seek another two terms in office and potentially hold onto power until 2034.
Editor’s Note: To read the latest edition of the traditional ‘World Stories You May Have Missed’, please click here.