Foremost herbal medicine practitioner and manufacturer, Prince (Dr.) Akintunde Ayeni, has made a strong case for the growth of herbal medicine in Nigeria, calling for government and financial support to enable the sector grow in leaps and bounds. In handing down the charge, Ayeni lamented that herbal medicine had not been accorded its proper place for a long time despite the enormous potential it holds, because the country has been ignorant of them.
Ayeni, the managing director and chief executive officer of Yenkem International Nigeria Limited, makers of the Osomo drink and lots of other herbal products, is optimistic that encouraging indigenous herbal medicine would help boost the nation’s economy and add so much more to the healthcare delivery value chain.
“Government has a role to play in the advancement of herbal medicine practice in Nigeria but government is not doing enough in this regard. There is no action being taken to help this sector to grow,” he said.
“If we were moving forward, the Federal Government should have by now established a college of herbal medicine. China, Japan and UK all have similar institutions.
“In Ghana, herbal medicine accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the country’s GDP in the healthcare sector. China makes nearly $100 billion from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
“If the Federal Government encourages herbal medicine practice in the country, we can make up to a $10 billion from the sector annually.
“But, sadly, government is even contributing to killing the industry rather than encouraging it, by allowing herbal products from outside the country to flood the market. By allowing that, we are killing our own economy rather than making it to grow.
“If you attempt to export herbal product to China for instance, they will frustrate you. They won’t allow you to bring in anything of such because that will not help their economy. They know how to do it; what they do is simply close their doors to anything foreign through stringent government policies.
“But we don’t do that here. We simply allow anything and everything to come in. So, the right way to go is to place an embargo on all foreign herbal products and then watch the local sector grow.”
Ayeni is optimistic that the country stands to gain exponentially from traditional medicine by giving the sub-sector the right institutional backing.
He said: “One other way to help this sector grow is to back it up with adequate financing. We need to pump money into herbal medicine and then encourage our people to patronise the products we have to offer.
“Encouraging the herbal medicine sector will help to create employment in the land. And that in itself will expand the economy.
“In that regard, I want to appeal to the Federal Government to create a fund to encourage indigenous herbal medicine. We need to focus on our herbal medicine and further explore the abundant potential it holds for us. This is a sector that has been with us for decades, yet we can’t tell about the enormous potential it holds for us all because we don’t know about it.
“We at Yemkem have our factory in Igbesa, Ogun State, where we scientifically produce various lines of herbal products – all government-approved. Over the years, we have expanded the frontiers of herbal medicine in the country; we are prepared to improve on the level we have attained, if only we have the right financial support.
There are other companies in the sector who can do better than they are doing at the moment, with the right support. I can say for sure that, through traditional medicine, we can add up to 40 per cent value to country’s healthcare delivery chain. And we can export our products to the outside world as well.”
Ayeni disclosed that Nigeria has the right environment for herbal medicine to thrive saying: “We have the materials; we have very good weather and the right soil where various trees that supply the materials for herbal medicine grow. From these trees, we harvest leaves, roots, barks and so on. Frankly, Nigeria has the best soil and the best herbs in the whole world.
“CTM is over 4,000 years old and has a history of government support. Who says we cannot attain that height in due course?”
Drawing comparism with Asian countries such as China and Japan, he said they have been able to develop their indigenous herbal medicine all because they have strong government support.
“I have been to those countries severally to see how they have been doing things. And what I find on each occasion is that they have strong government and institutional backing.
“In those countries, for instance, the lending rate is 1 per cent. The banks there allow the actors to pay back their loan conveniently. But here, the lending rate is 24 per cent. With that, how does anyone expect the industry to grow?”
He expressed sadness that government was yet to fully support the industry saying: “On the part of government, there are enormous policies that kill enterprise not just the herbal medicine sub-sector alone. One of such challenges posed by government is excessive taxation. In countries that encourage the growth of enterprise, tax rebate is often given out to let every industry grow. But we are not doing this here.”