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Covid-19: Kenyan researchers test efficacy of local herbal medicine2 minutes read



Dr. Festus Tolo, co-researcher in traditional medicine at his office at Kemri headquarters shows some of the pilot products. PHOTO|ANGELA OKETCH| NATION

Kenya’s leading research institute has begun exploring the efficacy of one of its herbal and traditional medicines likely to treat Covid-19.

Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has identified Zedupex, an in-house herbal medicine used in the treatment of genital herpes, a common viral disease that causes sores on the mouth and genitals.

The drug licensed by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board in 2015 was developed by Kenyan scientists from medicinal trees.

The search for both a cure and a vaccine for the coronavirus has intensified around the globe, including in Kenya, as medical researchers race to find the elusive remedy.

Dr. Festus Tolo of Kenya’s Medical Research Institute is the lead scientist tasked with finding out whether a herb-based drug will be effective against COVID-19. Zedupex, developed in 2015 by Kenyan researchers, has been used in the treatment of herpes.

Tolo says his team does not know yet whether the drug will work against the virus.

“We are still in very early stages. We cannot be able to say, knowing that the herpes simplex virus is a DNA virus and the coronavirus is an RNA virus,” he said.

“This really means that we need to, first of all confirm or check whether there’s activity before we can be able to really say this is a product we can explore further for COVID management.”

The WHO’s Kenya representative Rudi Eggers says that standardizing the various herbal cures could be quite a challenge.
“In other medicines, we find that there are specific levels of the active ingredient and in herbal cures you frequently find varied components and the levels of those components in there,” Eggers said.

“So, in fact you’d have to standardize these cures to make sure that you know what is in them and what component is actually acting. So that’s quite a step to be taken before actually evaluating these cures.”

Zedupex is sold in small-scale through the institute’s production department. The researchers will be working in the laboratory to test the activity and safety of the compound on Covid-19 treatment.

The trials are being carried out at Kemri’s laboratory. The drug has not been administered to any coronavirus patient.

But as Kenya tries to explore the treatment of the virus with traditional medicines, the African Union says it will now start testing the controversial herbal remedy for Covid-19 from Madagascar.

At least five African countries continue to receive supplies of the remedy despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning about its use.
Despite these hurdles, researchers at KEMRI are pressing ahead with their study of herbal treatments for COVID-19.

Kenya itself has seen more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease so far, and about 50 deaths.

East Africa News

Somalia Parliament Approves New Prime Minister

Mohamed Hussein occupies an office that was left vacant since the removal of former premier Hassan Ali Khaire

Bernard Akede



Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has appointed a new prime minister

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has appointed a Prime Minister only hours after brokering an agreement with regional leaders for elections next year that abandons the one-person, one-vote model which was earlier promised.

Late on Thursday, the office of the president announced the appointment of Mohamed Hussein Roble, a Sweden-trained civil engineer who is new on the political scene. He has been urged to take duties and tasks ahead of him with diligence.

Mohamed Hussein occupies an office that has been left vacant since the removal of former premier Hassan Ali Khaire by parliament in July for failing to pave the way for fully democratic elections due before February 2021.

There had been ongoing negotiations between the government in Mogadishu and Somalia’s federal states over how to proceed with the parliamentary and presidential elections.

The process has however been held-up by disagreements between the president and the country’s regional leaders.

The country had decided to hold its first fully democratic, one-man one-vote election since 1969, The past was a system where special delegates picked lawmakers who then vote for the president.

But the president, five regional leaders and the mayor of Mogadishu had reached an agreement conceding that such a vote will not be possible between now and November which is the time left before Somalia’s parliament needs to be changed, and Farmajo’s term ends in February.

The negotiators said in an official communique, that delegates from Somalia’s myriad clans will elect the 275 MPs of the lower house, which will in turn choose the president.

While the process shares a resemblance with the last election held in 2017, it goes a bit further in terms of inclusivity, with a total of 27,775 delegates voting, nearly twice the total number from last time.

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East Africa News

Uganda Repatriates 370 Nationals From Rwanda



Uganda on Wednesday repatriated 80 of its citizens from neighbouring Rwanda, an official has said.

Ms Anne Katusiime, the deputy head of mission at the Ugandan embassy in Rwanda, in a statement, said the East African country has repartriated a total of 370 of its nationals.

The returnees, who had been stuck in Rwanda due to Coronavirus-induced lockdown, entered their country through the Gatuna/Katuna border post.

“The High Commission of the Republic of Uganda in Kigali, Rwanda has successfully repatriated a group of 80 Ugandan nationals including children.

“This makes 273 so far repatriated massively in addition to the 97 people who were repatriated on a case by case basis.

“Total repatriated is 370,” the deputy head of mission at the Ugandan embassy in Rwanda, Ms Katusiime said in a statement.

“The first phase of Ugandans crossing from Rwanda was conducted on September 15, the second on September 19 and the third September 23.

“The Embassy undertook the registration and verification processes and coordinated their return aboard three Volcano buses and one private vehicle from Kigali through Gatuna/Katuna border destined for Kampala. I congratulate all the repatriated Ugandans for the resilience and patience they have exhibited during this trying period.

“This is the last group of stranded Ugandans to be repatriated from Rwanda. Other Ugandan nationals in Rwanda will have to wait until the situation is normal. I wish you safe journey and always abide by Ministry of Health guidelines to fight the spread of coronavirus,” Ms Katusiime said.

She said those repatriated include teachers whose contracts were terminated after schools were closed because of the coronavirus-induced lock down. Other bar workers and some business people that have opted to transfer their businesses back home.

According to her, a total of about 3,000 Ugandans had been staying in Rwanda before the outbreak of coronavirus.

The Ugandan immigration officials led by Mr Wallace Bindeeba received the repatriated Ugandans and said that they would be transported to Kampala where the ministry of health officials would determine where to quarantine them from for 14 days as per the coronavirus guidelines.

Mr Boogere Issah, the Chairman of the Ugandan Association in Rwanda lauded all Ugandans for their cooperation and support, in terms food relief and financial, to fellow Ugandans during the lockdown period and urged them to continue with the spirit.

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East Africa Business News

Bank of Uganda wants uniform ATM charges

Bank of Uganda is seeking to at least have achieved a cashless economy by 2021 through the National Payment Systems Policy.

Bernard Akede



The Central Bank wants commercial banks to harmonise fees

The Central Bank wants commercial banks to harmonise fees charged at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) as part of the work plan that seeks to embrace digital transactions.

While speaking at an event organised by Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) on Tuesday 22nd September, the Bank of Uganda (BoU) director national payments systems, Mackay Aumo said harmonisation of tariffs charged at ATMs is very critical in encouraging digital payments. 

“Up to now, I have failed to understand it. When I go to bank A, I’m not charged, when I go to bank B, [I am charged] Shs7,000 and bank C is Shs6,500. Even when you go to Interswitch, two banks that are connecting, the international tariffs tend to reign. Instead of Shs1,500, it will be Shs5,500,” he said, noting thst the banks have no need to operate individually.

Aumo said the banks must reconsider harmonising their fees, which in turn promises a return on investment premised on economies of scale. 

“You will be surprised that you can still benefit from bigger volumes of transactions,” he said. 

The Bank of Uganda deputy governor, Micheal Atingi-Ego also emphasized the need for the harmonisation to grow digital transactions, stating that the move will depend on the willingness of the commercial banks. 

“The players in the industry first of all, will discuss among themselves if that is the best way to go forward. So if they don’t agree on something, that will make the central bank rethink that, in the spirit of wanting to promote financial inclusion and improving e-payments. Is this the best way to go forward? If it is not, then we would have to think about it,” he said. 

According to charge schedules released by the Central Bank in January, bank ATM withdrawal charges range from Shs600 to Shs1,500 while whole cross bank transactions range between Shs7,000and Shs15,000.
The reluctance among the public to embrace digital transactions has been on the increase for a while and this has been blamed on high costs of transactions.

(Independent Uganda)

Bank of Uganda is seeking to at least have achieved a cashless economy by 2021 through the National Payment Systems Policy.

The Central Bank did however recently indicate that achieving the cashless economy might take longer than initially planned. 
Up to 75 per cent of payments in Uganda are still cash transactions. 

The UBA chairman Mathias Katamba, said the discussion to harmonise costs has been ongoing, but like many other things, was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He further explained that while the lenders are on board with the move, there is need for infrastructure sharing, for harmonisation to be realized.
“That is something we have been working on with the Central Bank for quite a long time and it is just about putting in place the enabling infrastructure that can be shared to lead to harmonisation of tariffs,” he said, attributed the difference in costs to the independent nature of cost structures employed by different banks.

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