How to develop, transfer technology in Nigeria
• ‘Nigeria will save N126bn with 20% mandatory inclusion of cassava flour in bread, others’
• Spends less than 0.01% of GDP on research, development of new products, says FIIRO DG
• Doctors want integration of African traditional medicine into primary healthcare, curricula of schools
Nigerian scientists have unveiled how to develop and transfer technology in the country even as they called for the integration of African Traditional Medicine (ATM) or Traditional Medicine Practice (TMP) into Primary Health Care (PHC) services and curricula of schools from nursery to university level
The scientists at an inaugural workshop organized by Ofure (Pax) Integral Research and Development Initiative (OFIRDI), formerly known as Africa Centre for Integral Research and Development (ACIRD) tagged “Pax Africana” identified the challenges of technology development and transfer in Nigeria.
These they said include: Low funding of research and development activities in Nigeria; General apathy for made-in-Nigerians goods/technologies and high tastes of Nigerians for foreign goods including foreign technologies; Low level of awareness creation on the part of the research institutions; lack of technical and financial capacities by the research institutes to further develop the research findings into acceptable products in the market; and inadequate Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructures and low level of development of available ones for information dissemination.
The theme of the workshop is Integral Research in Health, Education, Social Innovation and Law: Lessons From The Pax Herbals Project In Ewu. The scientists include: Director of Pax Africana/Pax Herbal Clinics, Rev Fr Anselm Adodo; Director General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) Lagos, Prof. Gloria Elemo; Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bioresources Development Group (BDG), Prof Maurice Iwu; former Chairman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Council, Dr. Bunmi Omoseyindemi; Consultant physician at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja, Dr. Clara Dawodu; Director General of the Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Sam Oghene-Etatuvie; and former Head, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Ibadan, Prof. David T. Okpako.
The scientists, however, recommended the way forward in developing technology in Nigeria. They said government should enact a policy to make it compulsory for government to purchase made-in-Nigeria goods especially MSMEs products; ban importation of some items that are produced by the local Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to protect the local industries; and legislate the use, by MSMEs, of appropriate technologies developed locally and specify sanctions for defaulters.
The scientists also want launch the compendium in all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria with active involvement of the organised private sector; government institutions, news media (both private and government) including radio, television and print media.
Elemo said the Institute offers technology transfer training in over 25 different technologies on weekly basis. She said the objective is to transfer technologies and projects that could be commercialised to entrepreneurs and investors in general. Elemo said FIIRO pioneered the research work on the upgrading of local technologies on the production of cassava-based foods in Nigeria. The FIIRO DG said Nigeria could save N126 billion yearly from the importation of wheat flour if it is made mandatory that 20 per cent of cassava flour is added to bread and other confectioneries produced and marketed.
Elemo also decried a situation where the country spends less than 0.01 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research and development (R&D). She said the success of a nation’s economy therefore depends on the productivity and extent of its R&D endeavours.
Omoseyindemi said the Alma Ata declaration in 1978 specifically said that mobilization of traditional healing system is the only way to make health for all a reality; therefore, it must be integrated with PHC.
The trained physician and Traditional Medicine Practitioner (TMP) said collaboration with health workers, TMPs and community leaders is one of the ways to improve health and move the PHC forward in communities. He said a mutual referral system could promote good collaboration and benefit the TMPs, the supporting agency and the community.
Omoseyindemi said there is need for to reorganize and redirect the PHC for lasting improvement in health care at the community level by properly integrating the indigenous herbal and healing practices into the PHC in line with the National Health Act of 2014. “If we wish to make African herbal medicine a practical component of ‘Primary Health Care in Nigeria’ or to incorporate ‘African medicine’ in the curricula of colleges of medicine and pharmacy, in my view, the programme must be rooted on the basic principles of traditional African medicine, an outline of which I have attempted in this presentation.”
Okpako said: “If we wish to make African herbal medicine a practical component of ‘Primary Health Care in Nigeria’ or to incorporate ‘African medicine’ in the curricula of colleges of medicine and pharmacy, in my view, the programme must be rooted on the basic principles of traditional African medicine, an outline of which I have attempted in this presentation.”
Iwu said: “We don’t have the knowledge of management of science. Research institutes should be product-driven place. How can we talk of technological development when the universities are starved of funds? We don’t have a patent office but a patent registry. A patent office will employ chemists, biologists and other scientists.”
Adodo said OFIRDI is about research, both process-wise and also substantively, that leads to social, if not also technological, innovation in Africa, drawing from all corners of the globe, while remaining grounded in African soils. He said integral research-to-innovation model was designed to bridge the divide between academic research and pragmatic social innovation, invariably set within a particular societal context.
Dawodu called for incorporation of ATM in curricula of schools even as she has developed various models to achieve that. Oghene-Etatuvie said: Our practice deals more with the traditional practice area. We are not interested in isolation and characterisation of the active substance. We want to do it the way of traditional practice. To facilitate this, we do a lot of training for the practitioners, but our trainings have been limited these days, due to inadequate funding.
“Our research focuses on malaria prevention, focusing on herbs with scientifically-proven anti-plasmodium agents, while promoting herbal extracts with insecticide-treated nets for the management of malaria.
“Government is interested in local production of herbal products; but the challenge is how to make raw materials available. Many practitioners go into the bush to source for these materials.”