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Laboratory landscape in West Africa shows resilience

Article-Laboratory landscape in West Africa shows resilience

Shutterstock West Africa Lab
The region’s laboratory market is now moving forward with breakthroughs, challenges, and opportunities ahead.

West Africa is emerging as a stimulating and fertile ground for novel concepts within laboratory settings. It represents a convergence point where significant discoveries confront formidable challenges, presenting numerous prospects for remarkable advancements. Scientists in this region engage in pioneering and excellent research endeavours, yet the region grapples with substantial challenges such as insufficient resources and financial constraints.

Notwithstanding these hurdles, substantial opportunities await exploitation. Collaborative efforts among scientists leveraging cutting-edge technology hold the potential to revolutionise global scientific practices. The exploration of laboratories in West Africa underscores the region’s commendable achievements, resilience in facing adversities, and their pursuit of groundbreaking discoveries capable of instigating transformative changes on a global scale.

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The Africa In Vitro Diagnostics (IVD) market will grow at a CAGR of 4.8 per cent from 2022 to 2029, reaching US$1.78 billion in 2029 according to an analysis report from Research and Markets. This is a pointer that in West Africa, laboratory equipment and supplies are in high demand.: 

Speaking to Kenneth Okolie, CEO of SynLabs, a state-of-the-art laboratory chain in the Nigerian market in an interview, he shares: “Since 2004, Nigeria’s labs have changed a lot. At first, we relied on other countries for tests because of costs and not enough experts. Then COVID-19 hit. It pushed us to handle our problems on our own.

The advent of COVID-19 served as a catalyst, thrusting us into an adaptability to confront local obstacles head-on. This pivotal moment propelled our industry towards self-reliance, birthing a remarkable proliferation of local laboratory services. We significantly curtailed our reliance on outsourcing, carving a path towards autonomy. This increased collaboration — both domestic and international — fostering trust among researchers and nurturing avenues for groundbreaking scientific advancements.”

Amidst these promising advancements, multifaceted challenges create a storm in the industry. These encompass regulatory fragmentation, the ease of establishing laboratories with low entry barriers, and economic hurdles such as erratic power supply and the financial strain on patients reliant on out-of-pocket payments.

The laboratory market in West Africa is on a forward-ever movement now. Regarding opportunities available in the industry and what lies ahead. Some technologies to be expected in the region in 2024 will be more portable and rapid diagnostic tools for diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis are expected to become more prevalent. These devices offer quick and accurate results, enabling timely intervention and treatment. Laboratories may increasingly adopt renewable energy sources, such as solar power, to ensure continuous operation and reduce dependency on traditional energy grids. There will increased genomic technologies enabling laboratories to conduct more extensive genomic sequencing which will give way for personalised medicine.

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Kenneth Okolie also envisaged a forward-bound trajectory for the industry, foreseeing increased investments, streamlined operations, tighter regulations, and potential advancements in the national health insurance system. However, he reiterated that the pace of progress hinged significantly on economic variables, particularly substantial improvements in power supply.

Despite these hurdles, promising opportunities exist to reshape the laboratory landscape. Collaborations between local and international institutions provide avenues for knowledge exchange, capacity building, and funding access. Modernising laboratory infrastructure, providing cutting-edge equipment, and emphasising STEM education can nurture a new generation of scientists, fostering innovation and sustainability.

Governments and policymakers play a crucial role in enabling scientific research by prioritising science and technology in national agendas and increasing funding allocations. Establishing regional research networks facilitates collaboration, enhancing the exchange of ideas and resources. 

Exciting developments are underway with more in store at Medlab West Africa 2024. Visit the official website and register for free to be a part of the buzz.

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