Category Archives: Hope iAfrica

Welcome to my space. I am a graduate of Physiology with subsequent training in Genomics and Global Health. My interests are Health, Medical Research and Civic Development.

I write about these interests to initiate discussions and policies that will lead to innovations as well as solutions in Africa. – Toyyib Oladimeji ABDULKAREEM

The Africa We Want

I am currently in Ghana for a 3-week summit by Young African Leaders’ Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center hosted at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Accra, and this is a summary of my first week at the summit.

I will not repeat the everyday detail (you most likely experienced it or saw it live on my Instagram handle and/or social media updates). I will focus on the lessons. These lessons are very important for us to scale our work and particularly, to create the world of our dreams. They are the reasons I share these updates. I will like to share two key things that stood out for me.

Sustainability remains a key factor in our work

From the civic leadership class to the guest speakers’ sessions, one word kept recurring ‘sustainability’. I have come to think of it as the fuel that keeps the car running. You don’t want to just have a luxurious car, you definitely want to keep driving it.

Mr Chico said, “Civic Leaders, forget about the impact for the next 3 months; think about money”. “You already know how to create impact, think about money”.

In a week in which Ghana talked extensively about doing without aids, we need to focus more on internal funding. From the deliberations in the civic class, the take home is creating a financial model for the organisation.

Add accountability, ethical leadership and a great team structure; you will be creating a mega-institution.

Our strength lies in our diversity

In this past week, I have listened to different people (imagine staying in the same compound with all these great minds coupled with the facilitators) and internalise what they do using Simon Sinek’s golden circle (Why, How and What).

I am a medical scientist and a health advocate working on preventable deaths with an amazing team, The Wellbeing Initiative (you can imagine the experience). In this one week, I have met people different fields.

From #NotTooYoungToVote to Roboga to Pep Naija, from people in government to entrepreneurs creating their own world; I have had the privilege to pick their brains and look at things from different perspectives.

So, I have this dream to influence health policies in Nigeria but then I met a friend from Cameroon who was invited by their Country’s legislature – he is changing the narrative as regards education in his community.

I met a commonwealth scholar who is in the medical sciences with deep interests in entrepreneurship. As I sit in my cubicle (I’m the silent guy people don’t notice), I imagine the world we are creating – the Africa, We Want (our individual and collective roles).

It’s very important we all realize our place in this fight. The political movement driven by youths in Nigeria is an illustration of this capacity.

I believe strongly that we’ll only shape this world because of you and me. How about you define your why, how and what; work hard and scale your work. The world is waiting.


High Prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases: Causes, Way Out, My Dream

It is no news that Nigeria is faced with several challenges, some of which are in health. We have read about the budgetary allocation and how our health institutions are doing. What we are not conscious of is the increasing burden and deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Nigeria accounts for not less than 27% of the global deaths due to NCDs according to the Director General of Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in 2016. What this means is for every given period, more than 1 in 4 persons die in Nigeria out of the total global deaths due to NCDs.

Causes of High Prevalence

It is known that genetics has a role to play in the development of chronic ailments. However, the situation has been worsened by health inequities, choice of lifestyle as well as the physical and social environments. We have accepted the situation and internalise it as our new reality. The government has not implemented the best buy interventions for NCD prevention and control.

We don’t have implemented rules guiding the sales of alcohol, tobacco and sugar. Our institutions are either not producing results or are not using them efficiently. The citizens keep abusing products that are bad for health, consume high salt and prefer sedentary lifestyle. We are not consciously doing something to change the narrative. The situation has led to increasing loss of family and friends to preventable deaths.

Way Out

What if we can prevent these deaths? What if we can extend the lives of those living with chronic ailments? What if we can reduce the rate of the development of these diseases among the younger generation? If all these are possible which are, by the way, we should explore the options. We only need to do more individually and collectively. Just as our Government and non-state actors, we need to take a stand and work to reduce NCDs in our lives, our homes and our neighbourhood.

I lead a consortium of young minds, The Wellbeing Initiative, who are troubled by the statistics and have pledged to work towards beating NCDs in Nigeria. I meet young minds who are advocates for better lifestyle and diet. I appreciate the steps taken by the government so far. I see the unrelenting attitude of non-state actors and organisations who dedicate their resources to curbing the menace. I read about the activities of international organisations and States to create a better world where people don’t die of preventable deaths.

My Dream

I have a dream of a different world, a world with reduced chronic diseases, where patients are cared for. A world with better quality of life for those living with NCDs. In this world, we don’t suffer the agony of losing loved ones to preventable deaths. Likewise, we are not losing our brilliant minds and future nation builders at a tender age.

Until we get to that world, we all have to realise the challenge and do our best in our roles. I believe that our government should unify our efforts using guided policies and strategic plans towards reducing NCDs in Nigeria. I believe that we need to implement strict laws guiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, sugar and other causatives of NCDs.

I believe that the civil society – academia, civic organisations, youths and other stakeholders should take up the challenge to intensify efforts towards doing what they’re doing to change the narrative. Above all, I believe that we all should individually consciously alter our lifestyle for better health and well-being.

Hope for Medical Research in Nigeria

While on my quest for an understanding of the medical research in Nigeria, I documented my findings and shared the challenges. Looking beyond all that, I have found some reason to smile. In the face of these difficulties, there is some hope for the field.

From the work on Lassa fever at Redeemer’s University to the work on tropical health at the University College Hospital, Ibadan; All over the country, Nigerian researchers are providing answers to some of our questions in health. They have found a way to make things work.


There is a unanimous conclusion that the Federal Government should increase funding. However, some initiatives if sustained are paving way for more to be done. Recently, Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe gave an account of a US$5-million research grant given to the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) by the Federal Government.

In 2011, The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was introduced to distribute public funding for infrastructure in the nation’s universities, and for research through competitive grants. In 2016, the Government also announced a ₦ 3 Billion National Research Grant.

Grants from donors like the World Health Organisation (WHO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), African Development Bank and Non-Governmental Organisations like the MacArthur Foundation continually finance research works around the country. Either to set up infrastructure or carry out a particular research, donor funds are a big part of research in Nigeria.


In a paper, Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka and Bolade Abiola Adewale evaluated University collaboration in Nigeria. They stated that such collaborations propel innovation. While more collaboration will help the system, the synergies that have been formed and are forming are providing faculty members and students as well as the institutions with new insights on getting results.

Collaborations between Nigerian institutions and those in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the rest Europe as well as with Asian institutions have increased. We now have more exchange of students and faculty members as well as training and fellowships.

There are more visiting faculty members and joint research works. Some partnerships even run joint degree programs. Nigerians in the diaspora now run research with a focus on questions in Nigeria. All of these are laudable and worth celebrating, they are yielding new innovations and providing a new way out around the country.

Translational Research

Translational research applies findings from basic science to enhance human health and well-being. In a medical research context, it aims to “translate” findings in fundamental research into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes.

This explores collaboration between and among teams to ensure that findings translate to better health in the populace. To put this in perspective, translational research is initiating discussions and influencing policies based on a finding to lead to better health.

Research findings are not accidental, they are scientific data collected from carefully thought and designed experiments with the motive to answer a particular question. There have been more done in this respective. We now have more synergies between our teaching hospitals and institutions. We now have a synergy between the academia and the community.

My first time of hearing about this was when President John Dramani Mahama talked about ‘the town’ and ‘the gown’ at my convocation. Since then, I have heard more and witnessed it put to practice. This should be encouraged and further exploited.

This is great news as it means that data is put to better use aside from the publications and presentations as well as the personal glorification that follows scientific discoveries. It also means that every stakeholder (health care practitioner, policy makers and the government) can use this data to ensure better health for all.


We are yet to enjoy all the advancements in Technology like some countries do. While this poses a serious limitation, Scientists in Nigeria have devised means to ensure their experiments sail through. We have also had more research at the molecular level. This can be attributed to some laboratory in the country that now provide services that are before now can only be done outside the country.

From the new cancer research and training center of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, the Bioscience Unit at IITA to the new laboratories in our institutions, technology is helping scientists do more than before. With new infrastructures – governmental and non-governmental, we now have new choices. All of these reduce the burden of research and will help ensure quality, efficiency and reproducibility.

While we anticipate a better world of Medical Research in Nigeria, researchers should focus on using the resources available judiciously and sustainably. They need to get out; apply for grants, make good use of the limited source, work on forming synergies and learning, open their minds to advancement in technology as well as believe in translational science. The health and betterment of the community should be the ultimate.