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Ghanaian Entrepreneur Creates Tool to Spot Fake Consumables

For more than a decade, Sproxil’s mobile authentication technology, called “Defender,” has helped consumers detect counterfeit medicines. Now the US startup is using its technology to spot fakes in all kinds of industries — from agriculture to beverages. Ghana-born entrepreneur Ashifi Gogo, who moved to the United States in 2001 as a student, founded the company in 2009 to tackle the problem of counterfeit medication in Africa. The continent accounted for 42% of all cases of fake or substandard medication reported to the World Health Organization between 2013 and 2017. Sproxil’s approach is simple. Manufacturers package goods with a scratch-off label that conceals a unique code. Consumers can scan that code, free of charge, on Sproxil’s app, which tells them immediately whether the product is authentic or not. Gogo soon realized that Sproxil’s technology offered a solution for products beyond the pharmaceutical industry. Sproxil has partnered with the Pure Heaven brand, which sells non-alcoholic wine and other sparkling drinks in over 80 countries. “In Nigeria it is a household name and counterfeiters go after successful brands,” Gogo said. Since its launch, Sproxil has worked with more than 300 brands and companies, including Bacardi, Diageo and GlaxoSmithKline, to identify 2.5 billion items as authentic. The company, which operates in five African countries as well as India and Pakistan, has raised $4 million in investment. Sproxil plans to focus on Africa’s counterfeit liquor market next.