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From Asia to Africa: Antibiotic trajectories across the Indian Ocean

The global markets for antibiotics are rapidly shifting. This project aims to explore antibiotic trajectories in the global South, from Asia to the markets in eastern Africa.

The project brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, combining methods and perspectives from the humanities, social sciences and medicine to investigate how active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and generic antibiotics are produced, regulated and exported from China and India to Africa, and particularly Tanzania.

In Tanzania we follow national regulations efforts and the circulation patterns of antibiotics in formal and informal markets, into the rural Kilimanjaro region where we investigate how small and large-scale farmers make use of these drugs for humans, animals and in the fields.


Antibiotics are some of our most precious medical technologies. Introduced in the 1930s, they soon came to transform deadly diseases into treatable life events. Antibiotics are also the infrastructure of the health system – a necessary component of a broad range of advanced medical surgery.

Over the last decades, there has been an increasing concern that this old and potent technology is losing its power to heal due to growing numbers of resistant microbes worldwide. At the same time, only few new antibiotics have been developed since the 1980s, resulting in what is often described as the dry antibiotic pipeline.

The global markets for the old school generic antibiotics are rapidly shifting, from European and North American dominance, to an increasing production in the global South. This project therefore explores antibiotic production in and export from the global South, following antibiotic trajectories in the contemporary and historical trade routes from Asia to the markets in eastern Africa.


In close collaboration with local partners, the project employs long-term ethnographic fieldwork, document and policy analyses, and archival work to develop a theory of drug trajectories in the global South.

The project is also response to the call from leading medical journals, such as The Lancet and Science for research contributions from the humanities and social sciences.

With the project we aim to inspire a more sustainable and context-sensitive use of antibiotics by humans, animals and in the environment.


The Research Council of Norway, SAMKUL programme. 

Start and Finish

2020 - 2025



Tags: One Health, India, China, Tanzania, Antimicrobial resistance, Antibiotics, Pharmaceuticals
Published June 17, 2020 9:47 AM - Last modified Aug. 19, 2022 8:16 AM