USIU-Africa pioneers new course to support manufacturing in East Africa

By Millicent Mwololo

Kenya is among nations in East Africa that have embarked on an industrialisation journey. In recent times, innovation in medical manufacturing has emerged as an area of big interest, hastened by urgent demands for responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is against this backdrop that the United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) has mounted a new course: Bachelor of Technology in Analytical Chemistry.

A first one in the region, the Bachelor of Technology in Analytical Chemistry at USIU-Africa is programmed to equip students with knowledge, expertise, and hands-on skills that will benefit the region’s manufacturing industries.

In the health sector, the graduates will be in a position to use nanotechnology to develop sensitive, selective and rapid devices for the diagnosis of diseases.

They will also obtain skills for drug discovery, and the requisite technological knowhow for quality assurance of manufactured drugs. This will ensure that locally-manufactured products meet international quality standards.

Notably, the use of green chemistry in the re-engineering of industrial processes will drive efficiencies by reducing both the time and energy spent in manufacturing, while appropriately managing wastes to promote environmental sustainability.

Again, the use of nanotechnology will be essential in the development of nanofilters for water filtration, which will ensure safe and clean water for all.

In agriculture, the graduates will have the knowledge to help in pest and weed control, as well as soil management. In personal care, the graduates will have been trained to ensure that the ingredients used in cosmetics are safe and are of good quality.
Generally, the Bachelor of Technology in Analytical Chemistry aims at providing students with in-depth understanding of analytical chemistry.

The design of the programme was informed by the results of a needs assessment and market survey, which had pointed to a shortage of people with good knowledge to handle complex equipment and chemicals safely and accurately. It had also emerged that Kenya had neglected the academic discipline of analytical chemistry, which is an essential field in all industries and is important for environmental protection.

“The increasing cost of raw materials has led to an increased need for recycling, which calls for analytical chemists to ensure that the quality of recycled materials are suitable for reprocessing. Besides, there is a need to develop innovative analytical approaches in response to emerging food safety issues,” states Prof Naumih Noah, Associate Professor of Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry at USIU-Africa.

Also, there is a growing need to establish and identify materials as well as quantify composition of purity. In agriculture, for instance, studying the suitability of soil for specific crops will go a long way in helping to improve agricultural production. “In addition, quality control is very critical in every pharmaceutical field…. There is a need for a high level of professional and scientific integrity in the industry,” adds Prof Noah.

The goal of the Bachelor of Technology in Analytical Chemistry is to provide students with hands-on practical experiences in the laboratory in the core areas of analytical chemistry such as instrumentation, quality control and quality assurance of practices.

The programme execution at USIU-Africa is quite innovative. “With the state of the art laboratories, the students will be able translate and apply what they have learned in class into real life problems. This will enable them to demonstrate the ability to conceptualise, identify and collect relevant chemical data and present findings in scientific contexts,” says Prof Noah.

The course targets anyone who is fascinated by analysis and has a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE), International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGSE), or General Certificate of Education (GCE). Also, holders of Higher Diploma and Diploma in a relevant field can apply.

KCSE graduates must have attained a minimum aggregate of C+ and at least a C+ in Chemistry, C+ in Physics or Biology or Biological Science, C+ in Mathematics, and C+ in English. Other requirements include five upper level passes in IGCSE/IB, five credits in any five subjects at 'O’ Level, and/or 'A’ Level, passes of Cat GCE. For those with Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE), the admission requirements include two principal passes in Chemistry and Mathematics, and a subsidiary.

Graduates of the programme will venture into careers in research institutions, food and beverages industries, water quality industries, mining industries, quality assurance industries, academia, pharmaceutical companies, and forensic laboratories.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm around this course, being the first Bachelor of Technology in Analytical Chemistry in Kenya, and given that it will offer hands-on skills. With the exposure to the state-of-the-art laboratories, and internships, our graduates will have an upper hand in employment,” Prof Noah says.

By the end of the training, graduates will possess knowledge of analytical techniques and the ability to conduct objective assessments concerning the use of chemical substances and laboratory procedures. They will have also acquired the technical ability to use complex equipment safely and accurately, and the capacity to plan a problem from the recognition stage through to evaluation and appraisal of results and findings.

Other advanced skills include expert analysis and reporting of scientific results, analytical techniques and instrumentation, such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS), spectroscopy (infrared and ultraviolet), electrochemistry and thermogravimetric analyser (TGA), amongst others.

USIU-Africa has heavily invested in human resources and infrastructure to pilot this new programme. The university has received funding from the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship to work with Prof Emilly Obuya from Russell Sage College in Troy New York, who helped develop the programme.

The course has received accreditation by the Commission for University Education (CUE) in Kenya and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in the United States of America.

Besides, USIU-Africa has strengthened the programme through collaborations with research institutions and pharmaceutical companies, as well as academic institutions via Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), so that students can do proper research and internships to expose themselves to the industry.

Presently, the collaborating institutions include Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Universal Limited, DAWA Limited, COSMOS Limited, Pona Herbs and Labs Limited, Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital, Kenyatta University, University of Nairobi, Multimedia University of Kenya, and University of Malawi.

By also training students in the basics of entrepreneurship, the university has integrated innovation into this programme to prepare graduates for self-employment and job creation.

“The programme offers a one semester on practicum where the students will interact with all the instrumentation we have in our state-of-the-art laboratories. From this experience, they can come up with innovative projects which they will be doing in their Third Year of study,” Prof Noah explains.

To find out more about the programme, click here.

* Originally published in the Daily Nation.

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