Nomandla Ngcoya

D Chem Group: Traditional Medicine

January 2019

Proof of Concept

Imbali, Pietermaritzburg

D Chem Group
Who does this innovation help?

The innovation is targeted at people who are living with diabetes and prefer traditional medicine as treatment. The business model is to sell to pharmacies.

About the Innovator

Nomandla was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2016. She is driven by her love of independence and fear of mediocrity. She is a 27 year old PhD candidate in medicinal chemistry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Nomandla is the founder of D Chem Group which is a cosmetic and detergent manufacturing company which will now be branching into traditional medicine.

How the Innovation Works

The goal is to ensure safe administration of traditional medicine. The traditional medicine is put in a capsule with proper dosages as proposed by a pharmacist. The benefits of housing the medicine in a capsule includes eliminating the bitter taste that is usually associated with traditional medicines since the capsule only opens up once it has been consumed. Secondly, capsules ensure appropriate dosages because traditional healers generally instruct people to drink half a cup for example, however, cup sizes vary amongst households which increases risk of overdose.

Innovation picture

An interview with the Innovator


What problem/s are you trying to address with your innovation?

The innovation addresses the damage caused by the consumption of traditional medicine that are not tested and not prescribed properly.


What has been the toughest challenge/s to overcome in your innovation journey?

Traditional medicine is a protected field in South Africa and it is not easy to access people who are willing to engage and share their knowledge and expertise. It took quite some time to get a traditional healer who was willing to assist and be hands on in this project.


Where do you see yourself and your innovation in 5 years’ time?

In 5 years' time we would have the products available in pharmacies and one would need a prescription to buy the medicine, as opposed to supplying traditional medicine over the counter as immune boosters.


What has been the biggest lesson so far?

Traditional healers really do understand what they are doing and how their medicine works (the mechanism). However, they need to document what they do in order to build legitimacy. Secondly, in business, being innovative greatly increases your chances of obtaining funding but you need to find sponsors who understand the vision behind your innovation.

Advice from the Innovator

On a daily basis, try to maintain the same level of enthusiasm you had when you were just thinking about the innovation because if your innovation does not excite you, it will be difficult to see your journey to completion. This is because along the way you will meet people who will fail to understand your vision and they will demotivate you because they will not see what you see and if you are not passionate about your innovation, you may give up. Your innovative product is a path that no one else has walked so a lot people will not understand it in the same way.

About the Supporting Organisations Involved and Approach to Galvanising Support

I looked for mentoring support which I found through the OneBio incubation program. I also used profits from the detergents and cosmetics (from D Chem Group) to fund the product expansion. Furthermore, I applied for the Inkunzi Isematholeni youth in business competition to get funds to assist with the product development.