Could You Set Up A Science Business In Africa?

Could You Set Up A Science Business In Africa?

The Ebola crises continues to expose the inadequacies of healthcare systems across Africa.     It is not easy for people living largely on subsistence incomes to gain access to cutting edge medicine, treatment and diagnostic technology. Where it is available, only a small section of society can afford it.

CNN profiles 32 year old South African science entrepreneur Ashley Uys who created his own diagnostic company to make affordable medical  technologies available across Africa.

He  created the company with the community in mind. His whole family is involved in the running of the business and he has deliberately not invested in automation as a means of creating jobs for the community.

Like most science-based businesses, Medical Diagnostech relies on identifying gaps in the market and creating innovative solutions to local African problems. Growing up on the Cape flats, he was aware of the drug problems which plagued his local area. He combined his passion for science with accessible technology to develop an optical drug testing app, Oculus ID, which allows parents to test their kids for drugs using an eye-focused camera feature which can spot the signs of early addiction.

The opportunities for science graduates in the UK are actually quite limited. The reason being that most opportunities are in research which are highly competitive and dependent on the availability of grants, which have always been in short supply. There are of course the opportunities in science based global companies for which the UK  has some of the best businesses in the world. Again, the opportunities are limited, but offer the best training in the world, so this would be a fantastic route to explore to gain an insight into the world of commercial science.

Be warned though, most science education is not geared towards creating entrepreneurs. So for would be entrepreneurs, there will be a need to learn about the mechanics of setting up a business and have an understanding of how to translate scientific ideas into manufacturing concepts.

For the African diaspora who want to think more broadly about their careers, Africa may offer opportunities they may never have even thought of. Africa needs scientists  and a science base that can develop products for a market which ultimately offers demand on an unimaginable scale. As Ashley points out in his video, many companies sell their products in Africa and they are making a lot of cash.  So there is  certainly room for a home grown industry.