An anti-malaria drug made from a local plant, a 25-minute test for malaria, an organic low-cost fertiliser, software to determine which ARV drugs will be most effective, imaging technology to dramatically improve breast cancer detection and solar-powered water heating are among the 10 finalists named for the 2016Innovation Prize for Africa(IPA).
Launched in 2011, the IPA is an initiative of theAfrican Innovation Foundation(AIF) and has a total prize of $150,000. “It’s purpose is to strengthen African innovation ecosystems and spur the growth of market-driven African solutions to African challenges,” says Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl, director of the IPA.
“The IPA is significant because it provides a unique platform to identify, reward and mobilise support for African innovators in order to unlock their potential. Through IPA, innovators receive not only validation of their innovations, but also exposure needed to attract more investments and other support from innovation enablers needed to unleash their innovations,” she told me. “The powerful examples of Africans solving African problems and the world unveiled by IPA each year serve as a testimony that the African innovation story did not end with the building of the Pyramids.”
She adds: “We are proud to have attracted more than 6,000 innovators from 50 African countries, which is a testimony that Africans are not passively waiting for help, but using what they have around them to solve problems they see every day. In addition, we have also seen how African innovators are also innovating for the whole world.” The 2016 winner will be named at a gala event to celebrate the IPA’s fifth anniversary in Botswana in June.
“The most important highlights include the fact that IPA winners have been able to attract more support and investments from their countries and beyond. One of the great examples is the AgriProtein team from South Africa who were able to attract $11 million within a year after winning the 2013 IPA grand prize of $100,000.”
“Innovation is not just about high-tech and not just about technology. For us at AIF, innovation is about solving problems innovatively; and this can be done with high tech, low tech and business processes. There is a saying that ‘necessity is a mother of inventions,’ and we are blessed with lots of problems in Africa which need to be solved.”
The focus is not just on technology and mobile, as is often the case when viewing innovation, says Mujawamariya Koelbl. “IPA welcomes any innovative solution whether it falls into what is dubbed ‘frugal, grassroots, or hidden innovation,’ high-tech innovation and those which involve R&D. We do not give preference to any type of innovation. We focus on the problems being solved, the solution, and what kind of impact this will have on the community, country or continent. It is all about proposing innovative solutions which add value and solve real challenges, whether high-tech or not. Finally, one has to link innovation with its utility and place it within a cultural context and specific environment.”
Listingprevious winnersMujawamariya Koelbl says “we need high-tech, R&D-type innovations such as Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix (the IPA 2014 grand prize winner), Alternative to Antibiotics (2015 winner), as well as frugal innovations such as Foufou Mix (2014 second prize winner) and Aybabar BBM (2014 special prize for social impact)”.
The 2016 top ten finalists, in no particular order, are:
Api-Paluis an anti-malaria drug treatment that is extracted from an abundantly available plant in Africa; and is significantly cheaper than existing medicines. More than three billion people around the world are at risk of malaria, the IPA says, citing World Health Organization (WHO) figures from 2015 which showed sub-Saharan Africa has 88% of malaria cases and 90% of malaria deaths reported globally. “Some African governments spend up to 40% of their public health budgets on treatment of malaria. Clearly this is a big concern for the continent and this innovation seeks to address this challenge,” the IPA said. “In this context, Api-Palu, an improved traditional medicine that was developed by Dr Valentin Agon a researcher from Benin, can be considered as a significant contribution to the fight against malaria. It has great inhibitory effects on 3D7 strains of Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria within few hours.”
“Api-Paluis a remarkable product that is distinguished by affordability, a very good safety profile, and potent parasiticidal activity that manifests as a fast rate of malaria parasite clearance from the blood following a short-term treatment and at relatively lower doses. It is available in the form of tablets, capsules or syrup. The drug has been approved as an anti-malarial drug in Benin, Burkina Faso, Tchad, and Central Africa Republic.”
Exatypeis software that enables healthcare workers to determine which antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatments their HIV-positive patients would be most responsive. According to the World Health Organisation, 71% of people living with HIV/AIDS are in Africa. The focus of governments has, until now, been to ensure that as many people as possible are put on ARV treatment. Unfortunately, a growing number of people on these courses are showing resistance to drug regimens, leading to failure of the therapy and increasing the continent’s HIV/Aids disease burden. Exatype has been developed by South African scientist Dr Imogen Wright fromHyrax Biosciences, to help address this challenge.”
“The software processes the highly complex data produced by advanced ‘next-generation’ DNA sequencing of the HIV DNA in a patient’s blood. Exatype determines and reports in a simple format which drugs a patient is resistant to and therefore avoided. The selection of Exatype by the IPA judges was influenced not just by its potential contribution towards managing HIV/AIDS on the continent, but the future promise it carries to help in detecting drug resistance for other diseases like TB and malaria.”
Safi Sarvi Organicsis a low-cost fertiliser made from organic products and harvest waste that can improve yields by up to 30 percent. It was founded in Kenya by SamuelRigu.
“The problem that Safi Organics is trying to solve is that many rural farmers in sub-Saharan Africa pay a high cost for their fertilisers, which are often produced abroad and imported,” the IPA judges say. “Due to this high costs, many farmers can only afford the cheap, synthetic and acidulated fertiliser varieties. In many areas, where the soil is inherently acidic, the use of acidulated fertilisers can lead to long-term soil degradation and yield loss, at about four percent per year.”
“Safi Sarvi is locally produced at the same price as traditional fertilisers, and can reverse soil degradation and lead to improved yield and income. The product uses biochar-based fertiliser which can counteract the soil acidity, and it is also much better at retaining nutrients and moisture in the soil. Additionally, the carbon-rich fertiliser sequesters carbon from the atmosphere with estimations of up to 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per acre of farm per year.”
Acesois an imaging technology that is capable of performing full-field digital mammography and automated breast ultrasound. This is done at the same time therefore dramatically improving breast cancer detection. It was developed by Dr Kit Vaughan, CEO of CapeRay Medical and a biomedical engineer from Cape Town, South Africa.
“Annually, there are more than half a million cancer deaths in Africa and these numbers are expected to double in the next three decades. If diagnosed early enough, the cancer can be treated successfully. However, because 40% of women have dense tissue, their cancers cannot be seen on X-ray and a false negative finding can have devastating consequences.
“Kit has successfully developed a breakthrough product: a single device that can acquire dual-modality images – full-field digital mammography and automated breast ultrasound – of the breast at the same time. This system, which is a world-first, is protected by international patents and has been successfully tested in two separate clinical trials of 120 women. The IPA judges are excited at the possibility such an innovation could offer in managing the cancer burden facing the continent.”
TheUrine Test for Malaria(UMT) is a non-blood diagnostic medical device that can tell in 25 minutes or less whether a patient has malaria. It was developed by Dr Eddy Agbo a molecular biologist from Nigeria and CEO of Fyodor Technologies.
“Africa is host to the highest number of malaria cases worldwide. It has been quite a common practice that every time a patient is detected with fever, they are administered anti-malaria medication. On the other hand, the inability to quickly diagnose and commence treatment for malaria could lead to various complications including kidney failure, build-up of fluid in the lungs, aplastic anaemia and even death.”
“UMT makes it possible to conduct a test for malaria using a dip-stick like the one used for pregnancy tests and receive accurate results within 25 minutes. The technology is based on the detection of malaria parasite proteins in the urine of patients with fever due to malaria. The process is simple; the test strip is dipped into about 10 drops of urine, and the reaction allowed to proceed for 25 minutes. The result is read visually: two lines indicate a positive test; one line indicates no malaria.”
“Because of its simplicity, the UMT can be performed by anyone, even in resource-constrained settings, enabling immediate targeted treatment. The simplicity and affordability of this test could represent a game changer in the way malaria is managed on the continent, hence the nomination by the IPA judges.
Using solar power,Green Toweris an off-grid water heating and air conditioning solution that uses advanced thermodynamics to create up to 90 percent savings in electricity consumption. it was developed by Andre Nel, an electronics and software engineer from Pretoria, South Africa.
“Water heating and air conditioning systems can account up to 60% of energy consumption in a home or building. Green Tower improves efficiency of a solar heat pump with solar thermal collectors, low-pressure storage tanks and heat exchangers. Software monitors performance and energy consumption, which reduces the size of the solar panel system while surplus energy is stored in a Lithium battery and used for LED lighting and essential appliances.”
TheTryctoris a three-wheeled, mini-tractor based on a motorcycle, to which various farming implements can be attached, and aimed at small-scale farmers. Developed by Olufemi Odeleye an automotive engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, it is easy-to-use and cheaper to maintain as 60 percent of its parts and components are locally sourced.
“Farming for most small-scale farmers in the continent is tough, laborious and characterised by low productivity. These farmers are constrained by the costs involved in switching to mechanised agriculture. However, through inspired alterations to a motorcycle’s engine, gearing system and chassis, this innovation has made it possible to mechanise agriculture in Africa for small-scale farmers in a way that was previously inaccessible. The judges were captivated by the clever adaptation of a motorised solution, that is ubiquitous in Africa largely for transportation, into a solution for mechanised farming for small scale farmers on the continent.”
PowerGuardenables consumers to work out the maximum amount of electricity they need for their homes or businesses. This reduce the demand for power, especially during peak times, which can help with the efficiency of delivering power and helping reduce power cuts. Developed by Johan Theron, an electrical engineer from Randburg, South Africa, it can be installed by any certified electrician and does not require any infrastructure redesign or expensive inverters.
“The use of electricity fluctuates during day and night, with the highest peaks occurring in the evening. However, electricity companies have to design and size all their supply infrastructure to cope with the highest possible demand. Also, power utilities tend to provide up to six times the average consumption of the average domestic consumer in order to cope peak demand. This makes power delivery very inefficient and expensive.” “The most common way for electricity supply companies to manage this is through limiting electricity supply to consumers which is experienced as power cuts and blackouts. PowerGuard addresses this challenge by smoothening out (reducing) the peaks, and therefore relieves pressure on the electricity network. It works by allowing the consumer to set the maximum peak power usage ensuring the consumer only receives the power they need when they need it.”
Tuteriais an online platform that connects people who are seeking to learn anything with those who live near them and are available to teach them.
Developed by Godwin Benson, a systems engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, it provides an environment that offers safety, accountability and quality.
“The platform is a simple but innovative peer-to-peer learning platform that allows people who want to learn any skill, whether formal or informal, to connect with anyone that is offering that skill. For instance someone wishing to learn to play a violin or improve their maths skills can connect with someone near them who can offer such lessons. The tutors and the learners form an online community where they connect and if suitability is established, then they meet offline for the exchange. Both tutors and learners are thoroughly vetted to ensure safety, accountability and delivery of quality learning experiences.”
“Globally, conventional methods of education and learning are being challenged. They are moving from centralised to distributed, from standardised to personalised. These trends have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to deliver better learning outcomes and Tuteria fits in well with this trend and it is a trend that the IPA judges would like to encourage on the continent.”
ThePlate Package(PLPAK) software package perform structural analysis of the technical drawings or designs of a building to check if the slabs and foundations will be structurally sound. It was conceived of by Dr. Youssef Rashed, a professor of Structural Engineering at Cairo University.
The PLPAK system analyses, and designs, building slabs and foundation plates. It enables engineers to easily model huge practical building slabs over sophisticated foundation models in a more realistic way, eliminating human error, the judges say.
“African cities are growing rapidly and with it the need for infrastructure developments to support the growing population. Unfortunately, most of African infrastructure growth, especially buildings, are unplanned and untested in large part due to the huge costs associated with verifying the integrity and stability of these structures.”
“PLPAK seeks to cure this deficiency by providing a low-cost, easy-to-use tool for the building industry. Additionally, as a platform technology, PLPAK showcases Africa’s R&D capacity while also allowing researchers to develop their own add-ons on the platform leading to the developments of centres of excellence at universities in different countries.”
Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher ofStuff magazine. Based in Johannesburg, hisTED talkon innovation in Africa has had more than 1.4m views.
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