Dr. Stanley Moffatt, Dean of the School of Informatics and Engineering (SIE), and Co-ordinator for USEACANI (US-Europe-Asia-Caribbean Nanotechnology Initiative) in Africa, has urged the need to bridge the nano-divide as an innovative science to alleviate the miserable medical plight of the needy in Africa.
Dr. Moffatt was addressing the just-ended first European Congress of Applied Nanotechnology held in Berlin, Germany from September 26 to October 1, 2011.
Delivering an insightful and intellectually-stimulating paper entitled "Nanoengineering in Africa: A Myth or Reality? the dean defined nanotechnology as the science (creation and utilization) of materials, devices and systems through the control of matter at the nanometer scale, i.e., at the level of atoms, molecules and supra-molecular structures.
He said Nanoscience, the foundation by which all natural materials are established, is, therefore, the next industrial revolution that would re-structure the technologies currently used for manufacturing, defense, energy production, communication, computation, engineering and medicine.
Dr. Moffatt, who has copious publications and enormous expertise in this technically innovative discipline, noted that when reduced to the nanoscale, the physics and chemistry of the materials become radically different; having different strengths, conductivity, better permeability and reactivity, which could be exploited to revolutionize engineering and medicine.
Dr. Moffatt defined nanoengineering in the field of medicine as involving various programmes for application of newly-emerging nanotechnologies for drug delivery, enhancement in medical imaging and medical treatment, based on molecular processes at the cellular level.
He stated that Nanotechnology holds enormous potential for healthcare, from delivering drugs more effectively, diagnosing diseases more rapidly and sensitively, and delivering more effective vaccines, bearing in mind that almost all areas of nanoengineering are directly relevant to humans because of the importance of nanoscale phenomena to cellular functions.
Though some critics argue that when millions of people in countries like India or those in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, are dying because of a lack of access to even basic healthcare, investing in cutting-edge technologies is a ludicrous waste of money, Dr. Moffatt argued that, while poor countries have an ongoing responsibility to strengthen healthcare systems and provide wider access to medicine, investments in nanoengineering could, in the long run, save lives by making diagnosis and treatment far more effective.
It is not surprising that many emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and South Africa, have ambitious research and development (R&D) plans for nanoengineering.
Dr. Moffatt argued that though Africans have the skill and power to revolutionize research through nanoengineering, the third engineering revolution of the last 200 years is sadly passing by the continent, making Africans ”spectators" as the world turns.
He stressed that Africans must not remain spectators forever and strongly proposed that African scientists must hasten to accelerate their innovative contributions in nanoengineering to alleviate poverty-related diseases in Africa.
The Dean said Ghana, and Africa for that matter, is endowed with scientists possessing the intellectual ability and the relevant track record of achievement to make Africans contributors to knowledge and holders of patents that will earn the continent respect as elevating the human condition, and not just as "consumers of the products of the ingenuity of others."
To do this, Dr. Moffatt said the government and private sectors must give pure and applied science national priority and endowed scientists encouraged through "meritocracy," and not the usual human networking and nepotism which, he regretted, has bedeviled Africa for so long.
The Dean further regretted that most of Africa’s mission-less and vision-less elected political leaders are only interested in lining their own pockets, and living lives of comfort with flagrant disregard for the future of the continent, the poverty-stricken, and the implications of the neglect to promote science and technology locally.
He warned that Africans shall continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for developed nations if they do not give innovative science in nanoengineering a pride of place in national budgets.
The international workshop started on the 26th of September and ended on the 1st of October 2011.