As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, countries across the world have been impacted. Africa in particular a has been faced with a lack of foreign investment, which may have sparked innovation in Africa as tech innovators find ways of creating, efficient inexpensive solutions that are to help fight against the pandemic.
For a continent where people are equipped to making do with limited resources, innovation in Africa in communities is fairly common. Who have created products ranging from home-made farm implements and vehicles, to the popular M-Pesa – the new mobile money payment system, Several startup hubs across Africa are creating innovative solutions, for the immediate demands of daily life.
As the corona virus targets the human respiratory system, individuals with severe symptoms find it very difficult to breath, and will need artificial ventilation. However, there are very few intensive care units in Africa that are fitted with these machines. This isn’t just a problem in Africa, industrialized nations like Germany and the United States have ordered car manufacturers to mass produce ventilators. With demand outweighing production, other counties like Ghana, South Africa, and Uganda have started producing their own ventilators.
In Uganda, an esteemed professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Vincent Ssembatya has partnered with another success story, car manufacturer Kiira Motors, with the primary objective of producing affordable ventilators for the countries cash-strapped health care system.
Another team at the Academic City University College in Ghana has demonstrated innovation and created a prototype ventilator but is currently amidst financial limitations to purchase more components for the device to be ready for certification and testing.
Non-profit venture capitalist Africa Business Angel Network is also working on creating another prototype, and Innoson Motors, a local auto manufacturer has sidelined its production process to manufacture ventilators.
Mobile apps and web solutions
After the success of its virtual hackathon early last week, WHO the World Health Organization is offering up to $20,000 in seed funds to the finalists that have digital solutions that may curb the pandemic. The winning team, representing Ghana has developed a tool that maps test cases that are similar to that of the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. The main difference however is that their screening tool has the ability to classify cases according to risk and furthermore submit the data to national authorities.
In Nigeria, Wellvis – the on-demand health information platform has utilized innovation in Africa and developed an easy-to-use app called COVID-19 Triage Tool. This free app allows users to assess their own risk category according to their symptoms and previous exposure history. Depending on the answers, the user will be offered remote medical advice or will be referred to a nearby health care facility. In parallel, the South African country is using platforms like WhatsApp to run interactive Chabot that can answer common questions about symptoms and treatments. Also, in an attempt to decrease fake news and curb panic, two alumni of the University of Cape Town have created Coronaapp, a tool that releases accurate and centralized information about the pandemic.
Mobile money transfer services
Africa is already familiar with phone-based money transfer services with the mobile money platform M-Pesa being used by more than 20 million people. Safaricom, the telecom giant that owns M-Pesa has waived fees on transactions under a certain amount. And Airtel have also waived charges of all payments through their platform Airtel Money.
Food delivery services
Lockdowns are targeted at stopping COVID-19 from spreading. But they also stop almost everything else including food deliveries to markets. In several Southern African cities, markets are essential to supplying locals with daily essentials, contrary to Europe where people can easily stock up on food.
Fresh In A Box, is a startup in Zimbabwe that delivers fresh food produce directly from farmers and door to door. The company operates mainly from an app, using their fleet of delivery motorcycles. This app helps reduce the risk of infection and prevents shortages of food in the community.
In Uganda, a popular app known as Market Garden allows for venders to deliver and sell fresh fruits and vegetable to customers as restrictions that promote social distancing have been applied. The app was developed by the Institute for Social Transformation, a Ugandan charity. The app reduces crowds in the market areas by allowing individuals to sell their goods from their home directly through the app.