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Where Kids Snort Tobacco As A Cold And Headache Remedy

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, tobacco powder is a common cure for colds, headaches and many other ailments.

A Congolese child (Steve Evans)
A Congolese child (Steve Evans)
Désiré Tankuy

BANDUNDU-CITY - It's recess time at the Bobenga primary school in downtown Bandundu, in western Congo. Students go out to relax in the courtyard, and small groups of children gather under the mango trees that line the school. And then, some take out small pouches of tobacco powder and start inhaling, passing the bags along to their friends.

"Try my tobacco," offers offers Flayette Ndukute, a 14-year-old. She boasts that it was made the night before by a famous manufacturer from the nearby Nsele neigborhood, and invites her friends to snort the grey powder, a mix of tobacco, leaf ash and wild roots.

"It's good, but I prefer the chocolate tobacco from Lubwe Avenue. They say it helps your eyesight and heals colds," answers Jackson. Since he was 12, his parents gave him tobacco to snort every time he had a cold. He's become addicted to the grey powder.

To "heal" colds, headaches or fevers, many adults in Bandundu-city turn to "tumbako ya zolo" (snuff) which they inhale several times a day. They have passed on this habit to their children.

Using children as tobacco testers

Some manufacturers use children to test the quality of their products before putting them on the market. "Before they go to school, they help me grill, grind and sift. They try it before the clients arrive so that I'm sure that the tobacco is good quality," confirms Eboma, whose 16-year-old daughter has become addicted as a result. "It's the family bread-and-butter. Everybody has to pitch in."

A small dose costs $0.05 and the tobacco sells like hot cakes. "At the end of the day, I usually don't have any tobacco left," explains Joséphine Ntoko, a manufacturer from the Lisala district.

But health professionals are finally blowing the whistle on the risks for children. "Parents should not try to unblock their sick children's noses with tobacco powder," warns neurologist Fabrice Divert Emoeny. Tobacco contains nicotine, which in small doses brings about light euphoria, eases tiredness and increases blood pressure. "Repeated inhalation of strong doses causes addiction. Children must refrain from it because their organism is still fragile," adds the neurologist. "It's a drug."

But it is hard to implement the neurologist's recommendations - all children are doing is imitating a widespread adult behavior. During class, one Bandundu teacher regularly exchanges powder with her students. "When I want some, I just ask one of my students. They never refuse, nor do I," she says.

Indeed, "Adults do it, so why not us," is the common reply you get when you try to tell a child that snorting tobacco isn't good for them.

Read the article in French in Syfia.

Photo - Steve Evans

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGO — TikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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