A range of antimalarial drugs were procured from private pharmacies in urban and peri-urban areas in the major cities of six African countries, situated in the part of that continent and the world that is most highly endemic for malaria. Semi-quantitative thin-layer chromatography (TLC) and dissolution testing were used to measure active pharmaceutical ingredient content against internationally acceptable standards. 35% of all samples tested failed either or both tests, and were substandard. Further, 33% of treatments collected were artemisinin monotherapies, most of which (78%) were manufactured in disobservance of an appeal by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to withdraw these clinically inappropriate medicines from the market. The high persistence of substandard drugs and clinically inappropriate artemisinin monotherapies in the private sector risks patient safety and, through drug resistance, places the future of malaria treatment at risk globally.