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ABC Director Participates in Pan-African Medicinal Plant Conference

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal was one of the speakers at the 4th International Roundtable Conference on African Natural Plant Products in Dakar, Senegal from August 25-27, 2004. The conference was titled “Market Access and Competition of African Natural Plant Products” and was sponsored by ASNAPP (Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products), an organization funded in part by the United States Agency for International Development.

The Conference Keynote address was given by His Excellency, President Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal, with welcoming remarks from Her Excellency, Madame Viviane Wade, First Lady of the Republic of Senegal. This is the first time a head of state has addressed the ASNAPP roundtable. Even more significantly, President Wade is the first African head of state to officially support natural products development. People from 30 nations attended the three-day conference.

Presentations dealt with various opportunities, challenges, and obstacles facing African medicinal and aromatic plant producers. Topics included export and quality issues in the herbal tea market, production and quality control in essential oils, the emerging international market for shea butter (Butyrospermum parkii) and challenges and strategies for introducing new African herbal medicinal preparations into local, regional and overseas markets.

Blumenthal gave three presentations: “Overview of the natural products industry in the U.S. and the implications of the Bioterrorism Act”; “Case studies and lessons learned from the recent introductions of [herbal] medications into the international marketplace”; and “Print media: Effective tool for new product introductions”. Other presenters from the U.S. included Prof. James E. Simon of Rutgers University, a long-time participant in the ASNAPP process, who gave several talks: “Medicinals: Overview of emerging crops with high commercial potential (Artemisia, Cryptolepis, Moringa, etc.)” and “Quality Assurance & Quality Control, Regulatory & Trade Standards Issues”. Kodzo Gbewonyo, PhD, of BioResources International Inc., gave an “Overview of Natural Products of Africa”, while Howard Y. Shapiro, PhD, of Masterfoods USA (div. of M&M Mars Inc.) and vice-president of agriculture at Seeds of Change, spoke on “Sustainable development models for commercialization of natural products”. Van Woods, CEO of Sylvia’s Restaurant, gave a buyers’ perspective on shea butter.

African plant products are becoming increasingly important to the U.S. and world market, as well as for consumption as teas, herbal medicines, and cosmetic ingredients in Africa. Recent issues of HerbalGram have covered the progress in the treatment of malaria from the roots of Cryptolepis sanguinolenta and the cover story (issue #60) on the growing popularity of the rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis). Previous issues have featured articles on devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) (issue # 50) and pygeum bark (Prunus africanum) (issue #43). Long-time ABC members and HerbalGramreaders may recall the special issue of HerbalGram #43 on African medicinal plants, back issues of which were distributed to the conference attendees.

The presentations from the conference will be posted on the ASNAPP website (www.asnapp.org) at the end of September, and a conference report, including excerpts from President Wade’s presentation, is planned for a future issue of HerbalGram.

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