Personal Reflection on Africa’s Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Epidemic

Since few decades, the population of Africa, our beloved continent, is booming. This is not bad news. Let us embrace this positively and celebrate our demographic growth and work to establish a sustainable economic growth. This is an important opportunity for the future of Africa which has tremendous potentials. However, key responsibilities arise from increased population growth. For instance, healthcare services and the availability of high-quality pharmaceutical products should be provided to respond to patient’s medicines demands. In sub-Saharan Africa, unfortunately, key health sectors remain poorly run and facing important challenges.

As human being and being human, what do we do if we do not have what we need? Well, we tend to find alternative solutions. This is exactly what is happening with (1) the shortage of pharmaceutical drugs and (2) the supra-expensive imported drugs in Africa. Unfortunately, many of us in Africa rely on counterfeit medications to cure some acute or chronic pathologies. This is a widely spread way as an alternative approach to get medicine in Africa. I personally grew up within this system. With the nearest pharmacist miles away, it was not uncommon to run across the street to buy medications for our indisposed relatives at home. I did not of course run laboratory tests to determine whether the hundreds of medications I bought for myself or for my relatives were authentic, unexpired, not overdosed, or effective. However, I do know, at least I can attest and confirm, that the storage conditions are far to be optimal. In addition, the pharmaceutical medication sellers were not pharmacists. One legitime question is to ask whether the millions of medications currently available on our street markets are effective.

Some could ask whether these medications bought to cure some of my relatives’ acute diseases actually worked. Well, I do not know. Sometimes, we got better from our illness when taking these medications. Sometimes it was right away. Sometimes it took few days or weeks to get better. Overall, we grew up healthy without any major health issues. Maybe we were a little bit lucky to escape the dark side of counterfeit medications. Maybe these medications exerted placebo effect on us. Maybe these counterfeit medications were overdosed in active component and we were lucky to survived as other might passed away because of overdosed medications.

I can go through a lot of maybe and hypotheses. But maybe we should start to make sure that what we sell to treat our population is well designed and intended to be used as well as verifying the concentration of the drug our population take. As society, how do we organize to eradicate this epidemy of counterfeit medications? Here are few of my thoughts. First of all, let us organize our society to make sure that affordable drugs are available in established neighboring pharmacies. Let work together to make sure that the majority of our people could have the privilege to offer to themselves high quality drugs when they are sick. Finally, a well coordination between our leaders in collaboration with the vigilance population to denounce the presence of counterfeit network of fake medications will certainly be as critical for the fight against counterfeit medicines which will be a long-term fight.

At the end of the day, health is life! Let us not play with our health. Let us take care of our health. We have only one life!

Let’s welcome back onsite scientific conferences coupled with online attendance option

This article calls for the necessity to couple onsite scientific conferences coupled with an online attendance option for the sake of scientific inclusion.


Let’s welcome back onsite scientific conferences coupled with online attendance option



Sickle cell disease patients are vulnerable to kidney illness according to a recent collaborative study from Ghana and USA.

Brief Abstract

Growing up in West Africa, it is common to know a family member or a neighbor with sickle cell disease (SCD) and unfortunately some of these friends, and family members died at a very young age. Unfortunately, SCD itself cannot be cured, only a treatment of the symptoms including the management of acute and chronic pain can be provided.

In a 2020 issue of Blood journal led by Dr. Ofori-Acquah, a Professor affiliated with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States, the authors found that high heme, a molecule derived from red blood cells, results in kidney damage in the condition of SCD due to the lack of a natural and biological heme binder called hemopexin. These discoveries suggest that extra precaution should be taken by SCD patients to prevent hemolytic conditions which can be caused during severe malaria infections.

Sickle Cell Disease Overview

Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 365 Black or African American births and alarmingly, 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait (SCT)” suggesting a genetic susceptibility of African descents on SCD.

Scientific progress has contributed to drop the SCD-related death among Black or African American children younger than 4 years of age by 42% from 1999 through 2002 in the United States coinciding with the introduction in 2000 of a vaccine that protects against invasive pneumococcal disease. This data suggested that environmental factors such as infection diseases represent a key factor in exacerbating the disease outcome.

Sixty five percent of people carrying sickle cell mutation live in in sub-Saharan Africa (west and central Africa). Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa is also the region where the prevalence of hemolytic infection diseases such as malaria is elevated. Resulting from the precedent elements cited in addition to the lack of adequate treatment, the childhood survival for SCD in Africa is 10% compared to a 99% and 94% in UK and USA respectively.

Therefore, it is critical to study and isolate the environmental factors involved in the severity of SCD. Dr. Ofori-Acquah and colleagues studied whether environmental factor which could result in heme increase through hemolysis could dramatically change the disease outcome of SCD patients.


Therapeutic targeting of extracellular heme to prevent kidney damage in SCD patients

It is known that the lysis of red blood cells, a phenomenon frequent in SCD patients, generates hemoglobin which can be converted to heme through biological process called “autooxidation to ferric hemoglobin”. In healthy person, the presence of heme in the blood is sequestered by a molecule called Hemopexin with the goal to prevent heme toxicity.

Dr. Ofori-Acquah and colleagues studies highlight a critical role of increase heme in blood in kidney injury. They found that SCD patients have a reduced heme-binder, hemopexin and in the context of increase heme in blood in SCD patients, the heme could be transported to kidney which provoke kidney damage instead of liver which is known to detoxify heme.


Takeaway and recommendations

SCD disease severity results both from the interactions of gene and environment factors. While we cannot do too much in term of our gene fate, the recent study of Dr. Ofori-Acquah shows convincingly that avoiding extracellular heme rise is a protective mechanism against acute kidney injury in SCD patients.

In a real world, what can we do to prevent heme crisis in SCD patients:

  • Take an extra precaution to avoid infection. For instance, microbe molecules have been shown to adsorb onto the surface of red blood cell causing hemolysis.
  • Check with your doctor and dietitian about a recommended diet to prevent hemolysis. For example, an insufficient level of selenium in patients with SCD has been associated with hemolysis, according to a previous study published in the journal Nutrients.

Further pre-clinical studies and clinical studies should investigate whether hemopexin replacement could be used as a therapy to improve SCD outcomes as well as protecting SCD mice from acute kidney injury.



African Diaspora Scientists Federation: Leveraging Science and Technology to Benefit Africans

Science and technology are transforming our society and it is clear that we all in the world are benefiting from it including African populations. Nonetheless, African populations could be considered as the least benefiting of science and technology in the world. To fully benefit from science and technology, African countries should invest massively in the training of scientists in the goal to respond competently at the local level to some science-based issues, such as climate change and disease outbreaks, for example. In the past two decades, African governments have increased, still insufficiently, their investment in tertiary education in the goal to drive the continent’s growth through the implementation of sustainable technological capabilities. However, after the training of the future talents, African countries face difficulties to retain some of their scientists or students in science due to the lack of resources and opportunities in science for ambitious young scientists in a competitive world. This situation leads “automatically” to brain drain. Yet, it is possible to reverse or attenuate this brain drain situation. To do so, we are calling for active promotion of brain circulation in Africa coming especially from African scientists who are living in countries rich with cutting-edge technologies.

Our organization, African Diaspora Scientists Federation (ADSF) aims to provide a platform where volunteer African Scientists in the diaspora, through an intra and inter-disciplinary collaborative manner, could respond to consultation requests from African governments and non-governmental organization (NGOs) on specific topics by providing analysis and opinions. Our second program, Science Experience and Career Path Exchange (SECPE), is a self-directed mentoring program that gives us the opportunity to be matched 1:1 with a mentor, or mentee from our database. The program provides a digital platform where we can form new connections, learn, and collaborate from peers residing in the diaspora or Africa, by sharing career advice and experiences. This program is designed to boost and build scientific confidence among the next generation of African scientists at an early age. Our last program, called Share 1 h of Your Science During Holidays, aims to organize and integrate one hour of a seminar for African scientists in their holiday schedule while visiting Africa. ADSF is responsible to organize the seminar by finding an interested institution and African scientists traveling for vacation and then organize the seminar. This program is designed to foster collaboration between African scientists in the diaspora and African scientists in Africa.

At ADSF, we are calling for African diaspora scientists to take the leadership on African science and technology implementation and development, which we believe would contribute to Africa prosperity through science and technology. In view of their background, African diaspora scientists are the most untapped African science and technology advocacy group. These scientists might advocate for science and technology development alongside African leaders and shape the paths for the setting up of rigorous science policies in Africa. Our platform is active and we are welcoming new members to join our initiative and inspire the next generation of African scientists.

Please visit us at and join us to speed up Africa transformation through science and technology.

Learn more here

Leveraging Science and Technology to Benefit Africans Populations through African Diaspora Scientists Federation initiative

We were honored to share our ongoing efforts to create a dynamic platform of African diaspora scientists on brain circulation in Africa at the US National Science Policy Symposium 2019 at University of Wisconsin Madison. African scientists in the diaspora, join us today and share your knowledge by mentoring a student in science in Africa and/or collaborate with a peer in Africa Contact us at
#NSPS2019 #Africa #Diaspora #scienceandtechnology #Globalscience #sciencepolicy #shareyourknowledge #africandiaspora with Rafiou Agoro, Eng. PhD

African diaspora scientists as development catalysts

National Science Policy Symposium: Rockefeller University New York on November 10th, 2018
It was with great pleasure, Rafiou Agoro, PhD presents our investigation highlighting African diaspora as development catalysts at the National Science Policy Network at Rockefeller University in New York City. #networking #catalyst #africandiaspora #sciencepolicy #sciencediplomacy #Africa #beyondthelab.

Contact ADSF to learn more about our activities:

Dr. Boateng, an African scientist in China with a vision to increase research in oil and gas exploration techniques in Africa

At 35, Dr. Cyril D. Boateng was born in a town called Ho in Ghana. While growing up, he did not have scientist role model but decided to pursue a STEM career while attending high school without having a clear idea of where his choice will land him. In general he was looking for a career which will provide the opportunity for lifelong reading and learning.
The Ghanaian scientist started his scientific career as a senior instructor at Kumasi Technical University where he taught for 6 years. Then he was awarded the prestigious CAS-TWAS Presidential fellowship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences to pursue PhD studies in Geophysics. Currently, he is pursuing scientific research in exploration geophysics specifically designing new methods of imaging complex oil and gas reservoirs.
Importantly, the methodologies he has developed can help in improving the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources in Africa.
Always professional at work, Dr. Boateng’s typical working day involves writing scientific articles, writing and testing codes and generating ideas for his research. For Cyril, It is not a myth to have the same working schedule in Africa. He continues, “I do not think it is a myth to have this typical work life in Africa. It only takes a few resources and data from government and private companies to set up the same sort of research capability in any African country. I tend to think it is more dependent on commitment than resources”.
For his next career move, Dr. Boateng plans to get back to Africa. He left Africa to improve his skills in Geophysics because; resources for his research were not available in Ghana. Currently, Dr Boateng has acquired important and critical knowledge in the field of Geophysics and he is ready to move back to implement his scientific skills in Ghana and train the next generation of scientists to prevent young scientists and students in science in Africa from experiencing the same challenges he faced during his STEM education. Definitely, Dr. Boateng is a change maker and we wish him all the best and a bright future.
To the question about how African scientists in the diaspora could contribute to improve science and technology in Africa, Dr. Boateng emphasizes on the necessity to go to Africa to change the narrative and improve the systems in African universities and research institutions. For the of scientists who are already established in the diaspora, Dr. Boateng suggests a collaborative initiative between scientists in the diaspora and scientists in Africa. For Dr. Boateng, if Africa has to become a very attractive and developed continent, Africans have to change and transform their universities and research institutions capabilities in terms of scientific research. From these institutions, many innovative ideas should emerge to efficiently tackle Africa’s problems.
Dr. Boateng has some final advice for the future generation of African scientists in Diaspora.
“Let’s all go home and change the narrative. If I had a wish, it will be making sure majority of Africans will do their postgraduate studies in Africa and use this knowledge to solve Africa’s problems. Currently, we send our best and brightest to solve the problems of other countries because we do not have good postgraduate programs. And when they are done, the host nations keep them”.

Online conferences: an alternative to on-site conference attendance? How does it affect our networking potential?

As a collective body of graduate students and postdocs, we can all agree that conference registration fees are expensive and there are no signs of a paradigm shift. I am still asking myself, why is this the case and will it ever change? So far, we have yet to mention the additional costs associated with attending a conference in person such as accommodation, flights, food, and ground transportation. The conference experience can be challenging and funding travel for trainees is often dictated by the training environment or situation. From a trainee perspective, traditional avenues for travel e.g. hotels or taxis are often expensive with hotel costs being as high as $250 for a single night that you may only spend 8 hours in. Often, trainees look for alternative and cost reducing approaches such as Airbnb and Uber/Lyft to name a few popular options (other alternatives may exist). All the above is trying to highlight that conference travel cost does not stop at registration. Yet, trainees appreciate the importance of gaining conference experience as it is critical for their career development. However, it comes at a financial cost.

Therefore, in the coming years, I will not be surprised to see more graduate students and postdocs opt for attending conferences online through a live stream channel, instead of a traditional on-site attendance. Similar to webinars, live streaming only requires a computer and can be done from the comforts of your own desk, sofa, or, city. Therefore, this approach can be convenient in term of cost. Registration expenses is often cheaper, and this excludes any additional discount costs for being a trainee. However, despite the apparent cost saving benefits, are we sacrificing an essential part of conferences – networking? How may attending conferences via live streaming affect our ability to meet our peers or future collaborators? Below are a few next steps on how to get started in the online world of conferences, followed by a few tips to help tailor your networking approach to an online platform.

Step 1: Check your availability to attend.

If yes, ask the organizers to confirm that the relevant sessions to your interests and research are available as a live stream option.

Step 2: Plan the conference.

Upon registering, make sure you reserve sufficient time on your calendar to attend your preferred sessions. With the flexibility of where we choose to attend the conference from, completing lab tasks between sessions maybe convenient, however; it is still important to engage in the conference. I believe many of us do well at prioritizing lab tasks as these are often checkable and defined goals, but when attending an online conference, it may be worth considering having an accountability system setup to make sure we keep to our conference goals.

How can we network from these type of events?

Networking tip 1: Identify several presenters with whom you would like to interact and network.

Networking tip 2: Engage conversation with peers and colleagues: do not hesitate to ask questions virtually. If this does not exist in real time, follow up with the presenter shortly afterwards (24 h maximum) by emailing the presenter and ask them about a specific question. Referencing the session you attended virtually may help initiate the conversation, followed by your question to engage conversation.

Networking tip 3: Leverage the physical attendance of other individuals from your institution to gain a different perspective and help initiate a discussion on topics you both have learned from the conference.

Networking tip 4: Engage on the conference social media platform. This may help you connect and interact with other attendees. Twitter often has a large social media presence during conferences therefore, it can be a useful tool to keep up to speed with conference activities and connect with other professional. Physical location does not prevent you from interacting with the virtual world. Consider designating calendar time at the end of the day, maybe 30 – 60 minutes to cover all the potential social activities you might have missed. Following the societies twitter feed on social media can be an easy way to catch up with all the important information.

Let’s teach our children science in their own languages

African Diaspora Scientists as Development Catalysts

African development challenges remain one of the most difficult to overcome in world. To address these challenges, Africa countries should invest massively in the training of scientists in the goal to respond competently to theirs problems. Instead of that, African governments have a lot of difficulties to retain some of their scientists or students in science due to the lack of resources and opportunities in science for ambitious young scientists. This situation leads to brain drain. However, it is possible to reverse or attenuate this brain drain situation. For instance, a promotion of brain circulation in Africa which comes especially from African scientists who are living in cutting-edge technologies countries could be an important problem-solving factor. Here is suggested a unique described role of African diaspora scientists to take the leadership on African science and technology development, thus contributing to Africa prosperity through science. In view of their status and background, these scientists might advocate for science and technology development with African leaders and shape the paths for the setting up of rigorous science policies in Africa. Also, here is suggested the creation of African diaspora scientists federation, a structure which might help their members to develop intra and inter-disciplinary collaborative projects. As African diaspora scientists, I am calling to the creation of African diaspora scientist’s federation as a framework for the actions devoted for African science and technology development. This platform should also represent a powerful tool for science advocacy in Africa.

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