Herbal medicine has always been popular on the streets of Nigeria, particularly among rural dwellers and artisans. However, in recent times, research has revealed that even urban dwellers and those in the middle/upper class are embracing herbal medicine. While cost may be a factor for rural dwellers, what could be the reason for the upper class? Is it possible that there is something unique about the herbal medicine that our exposure to orthodox medicine has made us neglect?
The Nigeria Natural Medicine and Development Agency (NNMDA) is a research institute within the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (FMSTI). The agency’s products caught my attention at the 2023 Science, Technology and Innovation Expo. The herbal medicine on display was unlike the ones sold on the streets. The packaging was top-notch, and each product was an outcome of intense research in the laboratory. I was amazed at the range of products available, from those for hypertension to diabetes, eye challenges, malaria, sexual enhancers and, even, insecticides.
It was clear to me that the NNMDA was not just a frivolous government agency but a strategic player in the growing global herbal medicine market. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global herbal medicine market is projected to grow from $165.66 billion in 2022 to $347.50 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 11.16 per cent in the forecast period. This industry can prevent capital flight and create job opportunities for Nigerians. I attended the commissioning of the NNMDA’s ultramodern laboratory in Lagos and I was impressed with the state-of-the-art equipment in it. The presence of both the senior minister and the minister of state of the FMSTI further emphasised the importance attached to herbal medicine by the Nigerian government.
The collaboration of all the key stakeholders within the industry can only point to one thing – the economic viability of the industry. Traditional herbal medicine practitioners, pharmacists and laboratory scientists were in attendance and they all attested to the fact that they work with the institution. In developed countries, according to WHO, 10-50 per cent of the population use herbal products regularly in some form, believing they have better immunity than synthetic drugs. Affordability is a key factor in embracing it in developing countries. Whatever the reason for using herbal medicine or product, the fact remains that it is gaining traction in the global market. Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind, given the abundance of medicinal plants in the country.
NNMDA is on the right track with its use of science, technology and innovation to repackage herbal medicine and give us a new orientation about our local content. This is one of the happenings within Nigeria’s STI Space.
It is our story and heritage. It can only get better and it’s only a matter of time before we globalise our local content.
With the abundance of medicinal plants in Nigeria, the country cannot afford to lag behind in the global herbal medicine market. NNMDA’s commitment to science, technology, and innovation in re-packaging herbal medicine for global recognition is commendable.
As more Nigerians embrace herbal medicine, NNMDA’s work will become even more critical in ensuring that the products are safe, effective and of high quality.
In conclusion, the re-packaging of Nigeria’s herbal medicine with science and technology is a step towards global recognition and economic viability. The NNMDA is doing well with its array of evidence-based products and its collaborations with traditional herbal medicine practitioners, pharmacists, laboratory scientists and others.
The ultramodern laboratory at its headquarters in Lagos will only enhance its work and as more Nigerians embrace herbal medicine, NNMDA’s work will become even more critical in ensuring that the products are safe, effective and of high quality. It is time to embrace our local content and promote it on the global stage.