The world energy situation is changing, and renewable innovations are speeding up seemly exponentially. With the big storms and terrible fires across the world this year, there is ever increasing discussion regarding climate change and how we source our energy. The rate of fossil fuel usage has stabilised, but carbon is still being pumped into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. Parts of Africa could be set to take the brunt, with droughts already causing trouble of the East of the continent.
Renewable energy technology, therefore, is incredibly important for the continents energy source. Renewable energy comes in various forms. Hydro energy has long been seen as the solution for Africa, with dams across the continent providing electricity for many. This system has proven unreliable in many cases, and low water levels at certain times of the year mean many must go without electricity, or only have it occasionally throughout the day. Solar and wind energy production, however, could be more reliable, with and abundance of sun, heat and wind across the continent.
There have already been some major innovations on the continent with regards to renewable energy. A massive solar farm in Morocco is already functioning and off grid solar solutions are being offered with creative payment solutions in rural and urban areas across the continent. There have even been advancements in the storage of renewable energy. And now there are further advancements being made with regards to wind energy.
Last week, the Innovation Prize for Africa announced their nominees for this years event, which will take place in Accra, Ghana in July. Over the last 5 years, the IPA has become one of the most anticipated innovation events in Africa. Over the years they have handed out around $1 million to incredible innovations and startups throughout the African continent.
The IPA was created 5 years ago by the African Innovation Foundation, who are based in Switzerland and aim to “increase the prosperity of Africans by catalysing the innovation spirit in Africa. We want to see needs-based innovation and change happen.” AIF also support various other projects across Africa, including the African Law Library, which we covered in Inventive Africa.
In our last blog, we featured 3 of the nominees from the IPA. This years nominees are so diverse, exciting and inspirational that it was not possible to cover them all in one blog. This year, 4 of the nominees were in the health sector. Health innovations have features widely on Inventive Africa and have covered anything from mobile phones used in eye care, to CT scanners. Here are our thoughts on a few more of the nominees and their innovations from the health category.
Getting sicknesses diagnosed in Africa can be time consuming and frustrating. I have sat for many an hour in hospital waiting for results to come through. Sometimes they come back as negative and then, the process starts again to diagnose the illness. I have heard horror stories of children being medicine for a headache, rather than malaria after being wrongly diagnosed.
This new technology, developed by Dougbeh-Chris Nyan in Liberia, enables doctors to make a diagnosis on many infections at the same time within 40 minutes. This technology not only cuts down on waiting times, it also ensures that even when the diagnostics systems and expertise are limited, patients can get a reliable diagnosis, and there for be treated correctly. It is simple to use and can be deployed anywhere, so it is perfect for remote rural areas.
In the example above, where the young lad was misdiagnosed purely on his symptoms, this technology can diagnose between infections that have similar symptoms such as malaria, ebola, and yellow fever. In the case of these dangerous highly infectious diseases, the short turn around time in diagnosis will significantly cut the risk of an infection spreading down.
In 2015 there were 2.7 million cases of TB in Africa, 750,000 of whom died from the infectious disease. TB, which effects the lungs, is particularly difficult for those who suffer from HIV. It is estimated that over 3 million incidents of TB are missed due to misdiagnosis and other cases being missed altogether. In order to diagnose TB, patients must often go to a clinic on various occasions, giving a sample of sputum, for high tech diagnosis. That is only the lucky patients, as many rural regions of Africa do not have the facilities to test for TB.
The Sweat TB test makes the process a lot quicker, and without the need for a needle or any invasiveness. The test “leverages a TB specific marker in the sweat of patients, to produce a point- of- care test to detect TB”. Like so many innovations in the health sector in Africa at the moment, this gives the chance for patients, no matter how remote or rural to have a test for TB and get the results, and medicine within the same short visit to the clinic. This could revolutionise TB care in Africa and all across the world.
As we have pointed out again and again, access to decent health care can be difficult in parts of Africa. Wrong diagnosis, lack of equipment, lack of a nearby health facility, or even a shortage in specialists can impact on the quality of health care. In previous blogs we have shown how some innovations are bringing specialists to patients remotely through mobile devices.
Dr CADx, which we also featured on Inventive Africa 7 months ago, is a software solution that helps doctors and health care workers diagnose medical images more accurately. Due to the scarcity of radiologists on the continent, most medical images are read by general doctors or other health care workers who lack expertise and end up misdiagnosing more than 30% of the cases that they review. As a result, millions of patients fail to get the right treatment or the treatment is delayed leading to more complications and even death. Dr CADx uses deep learning to interpret medical images and achieve an accuracy of 82% an improvement over the 70% average for radiologists. Dr CADx is designed to work in low resource settings with poor internet connectivity opening it up for use in many rural settings in Africa.
We still haven’t covered all the cool innovations featured in the IPA shortlist, so expect a part 3 covering the rest! The final will be held in Ghana next month, so keep your eyes open for the winner!
If you know of an innovation that is changing lives, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!
The tag line of Inventive Africa has been that ‘Change is happening now’ in Africa. For more than a year now I have been writing this blog, with the help of the occasional guest blogger, and talking about the tremendous change going on across the continent. The problem has been is that I had not been in the continent for 4 years, so I had not seen any of this change first hand.
So, I have come back to where I used to live, Ghana, to check out exactly what is happening on the ground. It has now been a week living between Sogakope and Accra and I have certainly seen big changes. The first major change that is evident is the amount of construction that has taken place in the past few years. Parts of Accra are simply not recognisable, with huge apartment complexes, hotels and office buildings standing where once chop bars and kiosks where selling their wares. Even Oxford Street, Osu, one of the main areas for partying, has changed substantially. There still a few of the old shops and restaurants around, but now a huge shopping mall towers over the surrounding bars.
Now, seeing development like this is a good thing, but I can’t help but ask myself who is it that can afford to live in such apartment complexes in the middle of the city, and are their any affordable housing projects for the ‘ordinary’ (for want of a better word) Ghanaians.
Another concerning trend is the amount of Casinos that are now dotted around the city. As you would imagine, these buildings are massive and adorned with flashing lights, enticing people in. I ventured into one (for research purposes of course) and found people from all over the world mesmerised by the gaming machines and throwing their money around the roulette tables, whilst taking advantage of the free food and drinks. It is not just these huge buildings that are encouraging people to gamble.
In most football showing bars that I have seen, around Accra and out of the city, there are systems set up to enable punters to bet on the games in play. And, it is not just that. Even in Sogakope, about 2 hours outside of Accra towards the Togo border, a little betting shop has opened up where punters watch 4 screens with 4 different gambling opportunities. They can bet on roulette (electronically controlled) or horse and dog racing. Now, you may think there can’t be must horse and dog racing in Ghana, and you would be right. These races take place only in the confines of a computer! They are betting on cartoon dogs!
Anyway, enough of the negative, there are certainly some positives here! Yesterday, for Easter, I was in a little village Agorhome, for their harvest celebrations. I have been going to this village for 15 years and it is always a joy. This time around, what surprised me the most was that I had 4g connection. In previous trips I have hardly been able to make phone calls, but this time I was able to live stream the celebrations directly to Facebook. Check out the Facebook page to see the saved video!
There is a buzz here in the tech world. There is a lot of enthusiasm and optimism that change is happening. SO many events are taking place, promoting technology, innovation, STEM education, women empowerment, etc etc etc! Just last week I was at the SFAN event, which I will write about in the next blog. There is a huge effort and collaboration trying to push Ghana forward. It is very exciting.
Keep an eye out for the next blogs, which will look at some of the organisations pushing Ghanaian and African innovation. I will also be setting up a coding club in partner ship with Airtel Ghana and CoderDojo, starting from Saturday 22nd.
If you would like an innovation featured, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!
Africa is innovating, but in many instances the world refuses to see it. I have many conversations with people that are very sceptical about African innovation. But, within the continent there is a feeling of enthusiasm towards innovation and optimism that innovation can improve the lives of individuals and the continent as a whole.
In these changing times, the Africa youth are potentially best placed to take advantage of the changing circumstances that new technologies are creating for the world we live in. I say potentially because, despite the optimism, Africa is still lacking important infrastructure. Measures are being taken by governments and private organisations to close the digital divide and enable the youth to take advantage of technology and innovation. One upcoming event that is approaching that very topic is the Quantum Leap Career Fair, which will be taking place on April 12th in Accra, Ghana. The event is part of a collaboration between Stars From All Nations (SFAN), who aim to enable the next generation of African Leaders, and iSpace, one of the leading technology hubs in Ghana. The theme of the event is ‘Technology and the Future of Work in Africa’.
A Mckinsey study suggests that when current primary school students reach working age, 65% of the jobs will have been newly created and not existed today. Automations are making many jobs more efficient and there is more and more need for computer programmers as well as other positions. As well as being a careers fair, and preparing job seekers for work, SFAN and iSpace are seeking to highlight the importance of being prepared for these new job functions. If Africa can take the lead in these preparations, then it is possibly to close the gap to the rest of the world much more efficiently. Continue reading “Did You Know events across Africa are focussing on Innovation?”→
Ghana’s election is finally here. The build up to this hotly contested election seems to have taken a decade. As we write this, Ghanaians are already braving the hot sun, standing in long queues waiting for their chance to thumb their vote. First there were 16 presidential candidates, and then, after 13 were disqualified, there were 3. Now, 7 presidential candidates, including current president of NDC, John Dramani Mahama, and Nana Akufo-Addo, the twice failed candidate from NPP. As with all the elections since 1992, when Ghana had it’s first democratic election, it is likely that the victors will come from one of these parties.
In recent years, Ghana has become renowned for having some of the most peaceful elections in Africa and Ghanaians are extremely proud of that. Despite some occasional outbreaks of disruption and violence (one person was killed in the northern part of Ghana last week), it is widely expected to be another peaceful election, regardless of who wins. The 7 political parties have all, last week, signed up to a peace pact, to ensure they will all work against any kind of violence.
During the American election night, many funny pictures of African’s were shared around the internet of them waiting with their bags ready to fly home if a certain Donald Trump became president. Samuel L. Jackson suggested he was going to move to South Africa and South African the Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, has often wondered about his position in the USA if Trump came to power. There have even been amusing reports of African’s hoping that Trump wins because it means their family members, who they miss, will relocate back home.
We wrote in a recent post that the African diaspora was equally as innovative as those that remain on the continent, especially as many of them have different perspectives and have picked up different skills and knowledge during their time oversees. If African’s (and some non African’s) really do decide to move back to their countries in Africa, it is very possible that they will further increase the speed of innovation in the continent.
The continent is in a difficult position. For other countries to develop, they needed energy. They got this energy by burning fossil fuels. Firstly, coal and moving on to oil and gas, damaging the environment and pushing the world close to the point of no return with regards to global warming. Now, this agreement seeks to reduce the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere at a time where Africa needs more and more energy in order to satisfy demand. This demand is still not even close to being satisfied, with regular power cuts still effecting industry and individuals. And yet, experts are putting increasing pressure on Africa to change its climate change strategy, to not add to the troubles the “developed” world has caused while developing.
A recent article from the BBC outlined one crisis that Africa is already facing due to climate change. Lake Tanganyika, which is a huge provider of fish for neighbouring countries has seen marked reduction in fish numbers in recent years. The lake is “provides up to 60% of the animal protein consumed in the region and is also an important biodiversity hotspot” suggests the BBC article. It was initially thought that this was due to over fishing, but in now, experts believe that climate change is playing a big role in the lakes decline. This not only impacts availability on availability of food and nutrients, this effect jobs and livelihoods of a huge amount of people. Global warming, if it continues and if the Paris Agreement does not change things, will impact many people (and animals) in many ways. Continue reading “Did You Know the Paris Agreement could be bad for Africa?”→