I am back. Only 12 days ago, I was here addressing law students. At this rate, I think, you may have to give me a bed in either Awo or Fajuyi Hall.
Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure to come to Ife and a privilege to speak to young people because they are now the hope of our country. Any leader who loves Nigeria and is scared enough by what they see should invest more resources and time in our young people. The dreams of the future are always more important than the story of the past; and our youths represent the future. That is why I agreed to sponsor the Essay Competition and will hardly pass up any opportunity to speak with youths.
The theme of the PANS convention is “The Audacity of Excellence in Pharmacy: Academic Distinction or More?” But the only audacity I want to speak about today is the “audacity to be different” – the audacity to set yourself apart. And, as far as I am concerned, that is the only audacity that matters. You are all going to graduate from here soon and enter the job market. Waiting for you is a harsh reality which you have to prepare for.
In the message I gave to law students 12 days ago, I told them that there was no space to accommodate them if all they wanted was to be seekers of employment when they graduate. There are probably more than 50 million unemployed people in Nigeria today but there are no 50 million jobs on offer. That is why I have continued to encourage Nigerian graduates to be creators of jobs. That way, they would become employers of labour instead of seekers of good jobs. For you that are going to graduate to be pharmacists, I will encourage you to look for areas that are currently being ignored. You should look at areas you can make a difference and reap bountifully from them. I want you to be outliers of sorts.
Now let me give you just one example and a very low-hanging fruit for that matter: Herbal medicines and homeopathic medicines which are branches of pharmacy are the most neglected sectors of the practice in Nigeria but they potentially hold the greatest promise both for the budding entrepreneur pharmacist and the Nigerian economy. The global herbal medicine market is estimated to be over $130 billion and, in 10 years, this figure will almost double. Europe currently dominates the market and some Asian countries especially China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia are big players. In Africa, only white South African pharmacists are taking advantage of this goldmine. Nigeria is virtually not a player in this huge market that should basically be ours for the taking.
All over the world herbal medicines are getting popular because of their lower toxicity and side-effects and higher effectiveness compared to others. And they are also cheaper to produce. The final products will also be cheaper for the consumer than the imported medicines because of the high dollar rate required to import goods. At the rate at which this sector is growing, if Nigerian pharmacists do not take ownership of the huge resources in their own country, foreigners will come in and occupy the space, taking advantage of our huge population and making dollars in exports at the same time.
I will encourage you all to start thinking of how you can take advantage of this as you prepare to graduate. Think of setting up small manufacturing units with international standard packaging. There are currently CBN intervention funds of between N5million and N10million for young graduates, and all you need to show is your NYSC discharge certificate. Start small and grow block by block, brick by brick. And since the raw materials are local, you can also take advantage of the export market, starting from African markets.
Is it not such a paradox that Europe dominates the global herbal medicine market when most of the herbs are Africa-based? If we get serious, Nigeria can actually become the hub of herbal and homeopathic medicines in the world. The foreign exchange prospect here is huge and, as I once said elsewhere, this sector should be factored into the diversification agenda of the government.
This is just one example of the audacity to be different. There are several other ways you can also disrupt the pharmaceutical industry and market — and the only way to make it really big in any industry is to disrupt that industry. You can’t go too far doing what everyone else is doing. The internet offers several opportunities in this regard. You have to seize the kind of life you want by challenging accepted norms, breaking some rules sometimes and doing what is generally accepted to be difficult. Everybody can do the easy things and they will just end up like everybody. But you have to choose to do the hard things, precisely because they are hard, if you want to set yourself apart. And if you fail, try again and again until you succeed.
Don’t make friends with those who always say “It will never work” or “It is not possible”. The things that were once thought to be impossible have now been accomplished possible. Have a vision and take the first step – that is always the hardest part. Avoid the safe zone, avoid your comfort zone and live dangerously if that is what it takes. And, as they say, fortune favours the brave!