Miriam Behrendt

Detecting Fake Medicines - Saving Lives

The sale of medicines on the black market is booming in many African countries. Low incomes of the local population force many patients to buy cheaper alternatives instead of qualitatively safe drugs (mostly from foreign pharmaceutical companies), which not infrequently cause serious consequential damage or even death.

According to the WHO, about 400,000 people die in Africa every year as a result of malaria, 116,000 of which can be attributed to the use of counterfeit drugs. The Chemnitz-based company authentic.network has developed an application based on blockchain technology that allows to distinguish "fake medicines" from real ones: Pharmaceutical companies and official importers can tag their products with an individual crypto code, which is read by consumers using a cell phone app. This app will indicate within seconds whether the product purchased is a genuine medicine or a counterfeit. In cooperation with the Ivorian Ministry of Health and relevant industry associations this innovative and life-saving technology is being tested for the first time for malaria medicines in the African country.

© authentic.network

Business Scout Rene Megela is supporting the Chemnitz-based start-up in implementing the project in Côte d'Ivoire. The business economist is an expert in the Business Scouts for Development programme, which is run by GIZ on behalf of the BMZ. His tasks include advising German and Ivorian companies on cooperation opportunities within the framework of German development cooperation, preparing relevant market and sector information, and supporting project approaches and investment plans with local know-how: "It is important to find the right partners locally. Many of my tasks consist of supporting interested companies that are planning to expand in Côte d'Ivoire. Together, we work to ensure that their market entry goes as smoothly as possible. The questions that land on my desk include things like: How do I register a business locally? How do I get the container out of the port? Where do I get a land surveyor and a good notary? Clarifying just these details is very valuable and determines whether a local business will be successful."

To this end, the investor guide "Investing in Côte d'Ivoire" was written in Côte d'Ivoire (together with Invest for Jobs) and posted on the website www.reaci.ci, which was launched with the German Embassy in Abidjan and provides valuable information for investors on key partners, tools and analysis.

The successes achieved and investments made by German and European companies in Côte d'Ivoire make the work of the Business Scout very satisfying. Rene Megela appreciates the fact that he is involved in important socio-economic change processes: "In the case of authentic.network's technology for detecting "fake medicines", we are dealing with an explosive issue. The trade in counterfeit medicines is a multi-million dollar business in Africa. The low purchasing power of many Ivorians means that instead of buying a whole pack of tablets in a pharmacy, they prefer to buy tablets at the markets, as they are offered there in smaller quantities." But often the drugs on the market are placebos or other low-quality medicines that either do not cure the disease, such as malaria, or exacerbate it or, in the worst case, lead to death. The technology developed by authentic.network could thus save lives in the future.

And the journey is far from over: "The great thing about the technology is that it can be used for a whole range of other products. For example, a collaboration has been initiated with a German consortium that produces Covid-19 rapid tests in Côte d'Ivoire and adds a code from authentic.network to confirm the authenticity of the tests. However, it is also possible to apply the code to any form of document, such as contracts, which will prevent their forgery and simplify the work of notaries. That is, we are already working on the continuation of the technology in other sectors and also on the expansion to other countries in Africa, such as Niger and Rwanda."

More information about the Business Scouts for Development program and contact information for the business scouts can be found here.

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