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Science - Education | Economy - Development

SA showcases African medicines at Shanghai Expo

afrol News, 27 September - South African authorities are promoting African medicines at Shanghai Expo. Research and "scientific validation" could give a renaissance to some medicines that could end up as export hits.

The South African Ministry of Science and Technology today held a seminar on traditional African medicines during the Shanghai World Expo. The seminar was on cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals and African traditional medicine.

According to the Pretoria government, the highlight of the seminar was a presentation by Professor Nceba Gqaleni, leader of the traditional medicine programme at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Professor Gqaleni spoke about the collaboration between public clinics and traditional health practitioners in the field of HIV and AIDS prevention, testing and care in KwaZulu-Natal. The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has worked hard to build unity between traditional health practitioners.

"The project has an elaborate monitoring and evaluation system. It requires that traditional health practitioners keep patient records and complete a referral form, and spread strong messages about HIV prevention to their patients and communities. The project has developed multimedia HIV prevention messages that are distributed as public service announcements," the department says.

Traditional medicine is a primary source of healthcare for many people living in Africa. Its wide use is a result of easy access, affordability, traditional beliefs and a long history of use. But Professor Gqaleni said traditional health practitioners and scientists now agree that there is "a need for scientific validation" of such traditional medicines.

The presentation, supported by the South African government, aimed at awakening Chinese commercial interest in African traditional medicine. China has its own, proud history of traditional medicine and Chinese scientists are currently studying modern uses of these traditions.

At the seminar, South African researchers also looked into other ways of combining modern sciences with ancient knowledge. They concluded that South Africa's rich plant biodiversity represent many possibilities for the pharmaceutical industry, among others.

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