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Finding Fortune in Traditional Medicine

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Traditional medicines and treatments could help provide the next wave of affordable drugs and medicines for the world. But a phenomenon known as ‘bio-prospecting’ – in which global companies grab a stake in these once-free medicines – has been placing traditional medicines out of reach of Southern entrepreneurs. Pharmaceutical patents (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patents) taken out by international drug companies are making traditional medicines expensive and inaccessible to the poor.

Indian scientists have identified more than 5000 bio-prospecting patents, worth some US $150 million, taken out by companies outside India.

Now governments in countries like India are moving to protect these recipes and the plants and animals they are made from.

The Indian government has labelled 200,000 traditional treatments as public property and free for anyone to use. These treatments are key parts of the 5000-year-old Indian health system called Ayurvedic medicine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayurveda) – ayur means health in Sanskrit, veda means wisdom.

“We began to ask why multinational companies were spending millions of dollars to patent treatments that so many lobbies in Europe deny work at all,” said Dr. Vinod Kumar Gupta, head of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which lists in encyclopaedic detail the 200,000 treatments.

“If you can take a natural remedy and isolate the active ingredient then you just need drug trials and the marketing. Traditional medicine could herald a new age of cheap drugs,” Gupta told The Guardian..

Currently, it is very expensive to follow the Western approach to developing drugs. A so-called “blockbuster drug” can cost US $15 billion and take 15 years to bring to the market. With patents lasting 20 years, a drug company can have as little as five years to recover its development costs. This helps explain the high prices for drugs.

Unlike traditional healers in the South, multinational corporations can marshal the money, time and legal resources to file patents.

In the past, India has fought expensive and lengthy battles to revoke patents on traditional remedies. One example is the battle over the popular Indian spice turmeric powder (used for healing wounds, among other things). A patent awarded to the University of Mississippi in 1995 was successfully withdrawn after a legal battle by the Indian government.

The Indian government’s move to make traditional medicines and therapies public property promises to unleash a new wave of natural remedies and drugs and to expand the market for Southern health entrepreneurs drawing on traditional knowledge and recipes.

As the world’s economy continues to suffer, finding new ways to earn incomes and spark a whole new generation of businesses will be crucial to recovery.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as “the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures that are used to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.”

The importance of traditional medicines in primary health care can be seen in Asia and Africa, where its usage reaches 80 percent of the population in some countries (WHO). Herbal medicines alone are worth billions of dollars a year in sales. Examples of traditional remedies include antimalarial drugs developed from the discovery and isolation of artemisinin from Artemisia annua L., a plant used in China for almost 2000 years. In 2003, doctors found scientific evidence supporting the use of traditional Ghanaian plants to help wounds heal. Parts of the African tulip tree and the Secamone afzelli are made into pastes which are applied to wounds.

The downside of traditional medicine is the urgent need for better regulation and safety standards. While more than 100 countries have regulations for herbal medicines, counterfeit, poor quality or adulterated herbal medicines are still a major problem.

Herbal treatments are the most popular form of traditional medicine, and are highly lucrative in the international marketplace. Annual revenues in Western Europe reached US $5 billion in 2003-2004.. In China, sales of products totalled US $14 billion in 2005. Herbal medicine revenue in Brazil was US $160 million in 2007 (WHO).

One initiative is ensuring there is a solid future for traditional medicine in India. Charity Bodytree India, set up in 2004 by a group of health, human rights and education workers, addresses issues surrounding access to health care and the disappearing traditional medical practices amongst isolated indigenous communities. Bodytree has established a successful educational programme that trains young people from different indigenous communities to become community health workers and operates programmes of health education for community groups (http://www.bodytree.org/index.html).

Almost four-fifths of India’s billion people use traditional medicine and there are 430,000 Ayurvedic medical practitioners registered by the government in the country. The department overseeing the traditional medical industry, known as Ayush, has a budget of 10 billion rupees (US $260 million).

In the state of Kerala in India’s South, Ayurveda medical tourism has become a good income generator. And it is so popular in the nearby nation of Sri Lanka, hotels can have Ayurveda included in the name.

Indian entrepreneurs are drawing on increasing awareness of the importance of healthy living and rising interest in vegetarian diets – what were once holidays are now health experiences. With global obesity rates rapidly rising, along with the attended diseases like cancer and diabetes, more and more people are looking for a dramatic change to their eating and lifestyle habits to ensure long-term health. And traditional medicine has solutions.

Published: March 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Cashing in on Music in Brazil

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Brazilian musicians have found a way to prosper and exploit the realities of music distribution in the modern age. The biggest problem for most artists – both beginners and those who are more established – is how to earn an income from their work. In the digital age, it is next to impossible to stop people freely copying your work and passing it on.

The impact of digital technology on the global music business has been earth-shattering. It’s estimated 95 percent of music digital downloads are unauthorized, with no payment to artists and producersWhile the legal digital music business grew for the sixth consecutive year in 2008, with a 25 percent increase in global sales to a trade value of US$3.7 billion, this only makes up 20 percent of total music sales (IFPI) (http://www.ifpi.org/). Even legal digital services like Apple’s iTunes have suffered (http://www.apple.com/downloads/).

An economic solution to this conundrum is critical for the growth of creative economies in the South.

The traditional music industry model from the analogue age – where copies of music are tightly controlled and royalties and profits funnel back to recording companies – has come unstuck in the digital age. With digital recordings, it is easy to copy high quality music and distribute it for free through the Internet, by audio music players like the iPod or on discs.

Many are saying a corner has been turned: free distribution is the new future and illegal copying is the new normal. The model for music making has been turned on its head: from high investment and high returns, it is now low investment and low returns. And this model chimes very well with the world most Southern musicians live in. The chances for most of emulating the champagne and jets lifestyle of the Rolling Stones or Beyonce is beyond their reality. But they can build a slower and more sustainable income with the new digital model.

A music phenomenon in Brazil’s poorer neighbourhoods, tecnobrega (brega means cheesy or corny) is a mix of electronic beats from the 1980s, mixed with found snippets of strange sounds or sound bites, combined in a so-called ‘mash-up’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashups). It makes for an easy-to-dance-to mix.

“Tecnobrega is a regional music, the music that people here in (the state of) Para most enjoy,” DJ Edilson told the BBC. “The secrets are the beats which drive people crazy.”

With music becoming easier and cheaper to record to a high standard, and distribution of music less and less a money-making opportunity, musicians have turned to economic models revolving around live performance to make the bulk of their income.

“What is going on is that people, sometimes in very poor areas, are appropriating electronic instruments like computers and synthesizers to create their own music,” said Ronaldo Lemos, a professor at the respected Getulio Vargas Foundation (http://www.fgv..br/ ) and project lead for the Creative Commons Brazil (http://creativecommons.org/international/br/).

“So this is a phenomenon that is going on not only in the tecnobrega scene but with many scenes around the world like Kuduro in Angola, Kwaito in South Africa, Bubblin’ in Suriname.”

The tecnobrega model works like this: People set up makeshift studios in their homes. They use a personal computer and a software programme to mix and blend the songs. Once the songs are ready, they either organize themselves, or more often, perform at a sound system party. There are said to be as many as 4,000 sound system parties per month in Belem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel%C3%A9m) and it is a hugely competitive market. The sound system parties can vary from a small crowd to heaving groups of 10 to 15,000 people. 

The money for performing at these parties is good. A musician performing just once can make 2,200 realis (US $919), and can do this 12 times a month. This is a good income compared to the minimum wage in Belem: 700 realis (US $292). It is estimated it generates US $1.5 million a month in Belem.

In Brazil, where many do not have broadband Internet and thus can’t download music, fans buy pirated and cheap compact discs (CDs) in markets. Local musicians make their own CDs and give them free to local street vendors. While they make no money off the CDs that are then sold by the vendors, they do drum up publicity and profile. And they then use this to draw large paying crowds to their live gigs.

In just a few years, tecnobrega has become a multi-million dollar music business in Brazil. Once an artist has gained experience performing live at the parties, they can develop the skills to organize their own events, and boost their income accordingly.

One singer who has successfully exploited the opportunities raised by the tecnobrega phenomenon is Gaby Amarantos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKjH__ghQa4 ). She now regularly appears on TV. 

“We have found a new way to work,” she told the BBC. “It is a new format and a new market model because we produce the music ourselves and the cost to make one song is very cheap.”

“What happens is that the musicians skip the intermediaries,” said Ronaldo Lemos.

“So the musicians do not make money from the CDs that are sold by the street vendors, they actually make money by playing live at the so-called sound system parties – the aparelhagem parties as we tecnobrega say here in Brazil – and also by selling CDs after they play live.

“No-one expects to make money from the CDs – they use it as a way to advertise the music and to advertise themselves as artists, and then their expectation is that they get invited to play at the sound system parties and clubs.

“The more their music gets distributed, the more they will make money in return.”

The furious pace of innovation in the tecnobrega scene is all about generating more revenue and more income. New styles emerge to cater to new tastes: cyber tecnobrega, brega melody, electro melody. And this passion for innovation has kept the tecnobrega entrepreneurs ahead of the traditional music business in how it uses digital technologies.

Lemos calls tecnobrega a “globoperipheral music”: it transcends rich and poor divisions and geographical boundaries.

Other examples include Argentina’s Cumbia Villera, or Brazil’s Funk Carioca.

“The number one lesson would be innovation – if you want to survive in the music industry right now you have to innovate,” said Lemos.

Published: March 2009

Resources

  • Good Copy, Bad Copy: A Danish documentary film by director Andreas Johnsen about the global explosion in movie- and music-making because of the digital revolution. Website: http://www.goodcopybadcopy.net/
  • A documentary trailer for a film about tecnobrega in Brazil directed by Gustavo Godinho e Vladimir Cunha. Website:http://www.vimeo.com/1993239

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Berber Hip Hop Helps Re-ignite Culture and Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Music is being used to revive the ancient language of the original North African desert dwellers, the Berbers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_people). And in the process, it is spawning a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and generating income. 

The Berbers are North Africa’s indigenous people, primarily living in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia, but their language and culture – called Amazigh – were replaced as the lingua franca of the region after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. But all these years later, the language is enjoying resurgence under Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, who is helping to promote the language through television programming and a new law making teaching of the language compulsory in schools by 2010.

Amazigh people – the name means “free humans” or “free men” – total more than 50 million. Their group languages, called Tamazight, are spoken by several million people across North Africa, with the largest number in Morocco.

For young Moroccans, promoting the language is more interesting when hip hop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop_music) is thrown into the mix. 

Where once Berber culture was shunned in Morocco and the language banned in schools, the revival of the Tamazight language has led to a flourishing of summer arts festivals, thriving Tamazight newspapers _ and Tamazight hip hop.

One hip-hop outfit, Rap2Bled from the Moroccan city of Agadir, stick to social issues, singing about unemployment, drug addiction and the emancipation of women.

“My mother and grandfather don’t know any Arabic…Before they couldn’t watch television, read a newspaper. They hadn’t got a clue what was going on in the world. They didn’t know anything,” Rap2Bled singer Aziz, who goes by the street name Fatman, told to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

“But now there is a TV channel in our local dialect and a newspaper. But our aim is to put the language on the map by fusing it with hip hop. More than 60 per cent of young Moroccans only listen to rap and western music. So we thought why not fuse Berber with that and make it really accessible?”

Just 10 years ago, rap and hip hop were virtually unknown in Morocco, with only a small group of hip hop aficionados listening to big American stars like Dr Dre, Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG.

But today hip hop culture and way of life (of which rap and hip hop music are a part) have become a powerful force in Moroccan culture. Moroccan rap focuses on local issues like unemployment and injustice and is ubiquitous on radio and TV.

The Casa Crew, from Casablanca, has become so successful since their beginnings in 2003 that their fan base stretches to Spain and Algeria.

“First of all, to designate rap simply as mere ‘music’ deprives it of its real impact,” Caprice from the Casa Crew (http://casa-crew-00.skyrock.com/), told the Arab Media News, Menassat. 

“Rap is a life style, and mainly a culture of convictions. The fact that rap is spreading in countries like Morocco is an excellent sign. On the one hand, it’s proof that the youth are starting to react, to think they have the right to express themselves in any way they see fit, without anyone judging them or denying them of that right. On the other hand, the development of rap means that the space for artistic freedom is growing particularly when considering that a majority of Arab rappers are dealing with subjects that we were forbidden to speak about a few years ago.”

The Amazigh revival industry centres around large music festivals. Timitar Festival in Agadir (http://www.moroccofestivals.co.uk/timitar.html) gets crowds surpassing 500,000, with more than 40 artists. Morocco’s biggest festival helps Amazigh artists meet world musicians and learn how to reach music fans outside of Morocco.

Another pioneer of Morocco’s music industry is Mohamed ‘Momo’ Merhari, a young music entrepreneur and winner of the British Council’s International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2008 (http://www.creativeconomy.org.uk/).

Momo is a music consultant and co-founder of the “Boulevard des Jeunes Musiciens” (http://www.boulevard.ma/), the largest contemporary music festival in North Africa, featuring 50 bands over four days, and reaching a live audience of 130,000 people. The annual event showcases new talent from the worlds of hip hop, rock and jazz fusion from all over the region.

In January, Morocco’s culture minister Touriya Jabrane promised to introduce a range of measures to financially support Moroccan musicians, composers and the industry as whole.

Published: March 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022