Thoughts of Nigeria at the Africa Health exhibition in Johannesburg


Between the 14th and 16th of May, we attended the first Africa Health exhibition that took place in Johannesburg. It attracted over 290 international exhibitors from countries as diverse as China, Germany, Taiwan, France, Italy, USA, UK, India and many more, as well as representation from Africa’s best local suppliers, all looking for space in the emerging health sectors in African countries. In addition to the exhibition, there were a series of conferences on diverse topics such as; imaging and radiology, quality and accreditation in healthcare, obstetrics and gynecology, leadership, complementary medicine, otolaryngology, ethics, human rights and medical law.

Going round the exhibitors at this exhibition one could not help but reflect on the uncharted territory of health and health care in Nigeria. from diagnostics to medical imaging, from hospital construction to medical training. We seem to be stuck in time as we still rely mostly on our clinical acumen, and its inherent limitations for practice in most settings in Nigeria. But there is some hope! We ran into a representative of the Lagos State Government (no surprise there), the newly appointed Chief Medical Director of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital and a number of other colleagues working in the private sector. At dinner after one of the sessions, there was consensus that while we still had a long way to go, the time is now to start challenging conventional wisdom on the realms of possibilities for the health sector in Nigeria. The exhibition was definitely an eye opener, and showed where we were not in Nigeria, and the opportunities in several medical disciplines such as diagnostics and therapy in healthcare. These are things not easily accessible to the wider Nigerian populace.

One product that absolutely blew my mind was this mobile clinic. The flexibility of the clinical suite that can be converted from a delivery suite, to a dental clinic or even a vaccination and HIV testing unit. The possibilities are simply amazing. We gathered that there has been been one order already from Nigeria; from the Bayelsa State Government. The challenge with a piece of beautiful equipment is that it is only as good as good as the system in which it operates. Like every other piece of technology, on its own, it is not going to save a single life.

Unfortunately, we know that many other planned visitors of the exhibition were frustrated by hurdles placed by the South African High Commission in Nigeria, but next year we will expect a few more Nigerians at the Expo. We need to see and experience what is happening in the rest of the world. We also need colleagues to experience how demand is driven by well planned and executed conferences and exhibitions. The feeling after this event is summed up in this view by one of the attendees….

This event has been powerful, especially because many of the topics are relevant in Africa. It has been an informative experience and we have seen the great way in which science has helped the healthcare system.

Can this event be brought to Nigeria…I hear you asking. Not yet I would say. We are just not there yet to offer the market that will enable the success of an exhibition of this magnitude. But …..if you are interested in this we will suggest you attend MEDICA holding in Lagos from the 18th to 20th of October

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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