Uganda and Nanotechnology

Uganda seems to have misplaced priorities when it comes to nanotech, but it’s not the kind we thought

2 min read

I have to confess when I saw this headline Nanotechnology: How prepared is Uganda?, my initial thought was oh dear, another country trying to get into the nanotechnology initiative gambit to the detriment of the rest of its economy. This was going to provide me with another opportunity to hammer away at my pet peeve: the attempts by regions to become the Silicon Valley of nanotech.

But it turned out to be something else completely. The story details a bogus product that claims to have nanotech in it, which it doesn’t, and instead of engendering anger at this obvious fraud it gets health officials in Uganda concerned about nanotech in consumer products within their country.

It all harkens back to the ‘Magic Nano’ craze in which a bathroom cleaning product that was marketed as “nano” started to cause respiratory problems in its users. This caused many to start using it as an example of how dangerous nanotechnology is, until it started to become clear that the product didn’t really contain any nanoparticles.

But this Uganda incident is mind-boggling. You have some product being sold that is some kind of glass and purports to:

Enhance body mood and replenish water and other beverages with lost essential minerals. The glass is believed to have been developed at high altitude.

It costs between Shs500,000- 1,000,000. The glass, whose brand name is withheld, claims to make sick people get nutrients from its use. One pours water and drinks. It is also claimed that carrying it in one’s pocket makes them healthier.

Faced with this clear fraud, what are the government officials going on about: the unknown dangers of nanoparticles.

This example demonstrates at least one or both of the following two ideas. The NGOs out to put a moratorium on nanotech are succeeding rather well in so far as government officials in Third World are more concerned about unknown dangers of nanoparticles than they are fraud perpetrated upon their citizens. Or, the NGOs will succeed eventually in their goal as evidenced by the clear insanity of this bizarre reaction.

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