Did You Know you can connect with your doctor using an app in Africa?

Did You Know you can connect with your doctor using an app in Africa?

The issue of healthcare in Africa is one that the world often focusses on. Despite big organisations, such as WHO, who have embarked heavily on projects to support healthcare across the continent, pumping large amounts of money into solutions, there is still a shortfall in adequate health care. Access to health care in particular is a serious concern and burning issues for many African populations. In much of rural Africa, where the majority are under privileged, are being hit hard by the harsh reality.

Where organisations, charities, and governments have have been less successful than expected, innovation and technological advances in recent years have led to other opportunities to improve the African health sector. The Yapili app, which was founded in November 2014 by a group of young entrepreneurs, gives a glimpse of light in a sector that is tarnished by negativity. It is a leveraged mobile app that offers communities access to  health care, bidding fare well to expensive medical care for majority of the people in Africa, and breaking the barriers between the rich and the poor.

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Physically attending doctors appointment in many part of Africa can be challenging. Many face long walks, and poor roads can make travelling via car or bus very difficult, especially with painful illnesses. There is even the cost to consider, with many deciding to wait it out, instead of seeking medical attention, often to disastrous ends. Mobile technology has made it possible to access health care remotely. Inventive Africa has discussed on numerous other occasions how doctors are being able to utilise mobile technology to monitor their patience, and even to do physical checkups of ears and eyes, and other symptoms using a mobile phone camera, reporting directly back to specialists. 

This amazing app is free to use, hence curbing all the stress of affordability in accessing the best doctors. It has a variety of licensed doctors and licensed physicians from across the globe, who collaboratively share their skills to promote efficiency and accessibility to health care. With this app, individuals have access to both local and western health professionals, who offer secure channels when seeking medical care. All this is done using a mobile phone! A major concern is data security, and with Yapili that remains a top priority. Language and communication pose no problem at all as local doctors are fully engaged and assist in all questions asked, and follow ups needed can be arranged with just a click on one’s mobile phone.

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Yapili is available in Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and is hoping to expand even further across the continent. Most of the doctors on board offer their services for free currently. In its early stages, doctors have come on for free out of passion, and Yapili have tapped into African doctors who are based outside the continent and are passionate about giving something back to their former communities.

Samuel had the pleasure of meeting some of the Yapili team and the recent Seedstars conference in Lausanne. The team is incredibly highly motivated and fully understand how important such an app is for the future of African health care. It is worth baring in mind that such an app may also have use outside of Africa, with health care systems in many western countries also feeling the strain!

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The Yapili team at the Seedstars summit

Not only has this app given new possibilities in health care, it showcases the possibilities of technology to those that have not previously had access to it. This is the case of many of these barrier breaking innovations that we have seen in Africa in recent years. It is incredible to see how quickly rural Africans, many without a formal education, are able to pick up new technologies and utilise them.

If you know of any innovations in Africa, an innovation that is changing lives, or you also want to be a guest blogger, get in contact with us on Twitter @inventiveAfrica or via email. Please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.

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Did You Know there are too many NEF amazing NEF innovations to feature in one blog?

Did You Know there are too many NEF amazing NEF innovations to feature in one blog?

Our previous two blogs featured the Next Einstein Forum, which took place in March. The event seeks to promote African scientific excellence to the rest of the world, and to find the next brilliant scientists and mathematicians from the continent. It is such an exciting and important initiative, that this blog will be the third in the series of blogs about this year’ NEF. We will once again feature some of our favourite innovations from the Challenge of Invention to Innovation (Ci2i), an innovation challenge that shortlisted 16 finalists from over 130 entrants.

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For a general overview of the happenings of the event, including the inauguration of a new African scientific journal, and our thoughts on why it is such an important theme, you can check out this blog. Do see other featured innovations from the Ci2i, see this blog 

Molepse Bio oil/powder

We say it often, but it important to note that agriculture forms the backbone of many African economies, and, whilst there are often other greater sources of income, farming is vitally important. If it is not supported and developed, then the African continent will continue to rely on food imports. With the available land, this is simply not necessary, if the sector is managed properly.

Part of the process of ensuring that farms maximise their yields, and send a maximum amount to market, is to make sure that crops are stored properly after harvest. Post harvest losses are one of the major reasons for food insecurity. If Weevils enter a crop they can completely decimate it, so farmers need to take measure to protect against this. After four years of research, Donatus Njoroge of Kenya found the perfect mix of locally growing weeds, which are then mixed and turned into oil or powder. This has been found to be extremely effective by local farmers to repel major insect pests, such a Weevils. Farmers were able to store their maize for 6 months, which means it can reach until the next season.

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Donatus at NEF

 

Apart from being a natural product (and it is important to create natural products) another reason that they are more effective than artificial pesticides is that different pests effect different crop types. Molepse was effective with all types of pests. The affordability, as well as the fact that is natural, could change the fortunes of many farmers across the region.

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Molepse bio products

Rachel Sibande

Rachel Sibande, from Malawi, is already a renowned African innovator. Some may even call her an innovation celebrity! In 2013 she established the first innovation, mHub, in Malawi. She has also won various other awards, including one from Google.

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At this years NEF, she showcased her idea to use Maize cobs as a bio fuel. Up cycling has been quite popular world wide, and finding new uses for waste products takes that to a new level, especially in the energy sector. Maize is a staple food throughout much of the continent, and therefore that an millions of cobs available, which usually go to waste. Sibande plans to use the to run a gasifier based electrical system, which will be able to be utilised by local communities, schools, health centres and local businesses for their energy needs. It is not only power which will be generated, rather like Ecovon, they will create new building materials from the ashes from the power system, to create cheap housing, as well as boosting employment.

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Sibande’s innovation is upcycling upcycling! Power is a problem in many communities, as are building sustainable affordable housing. She is solving the problem by using a waste product that is found all over the continent. This rising star of African innovation will continue to find herself in the limelight with this idea, and surely many more! In fact, she was the winner of the NEF Ci2i, and it is clear that she is great supporter of other women in technology. In her winning speech she said “This is for the daughters of the continent. May they thrive in science to innovate and invent more home grown solutions.” Amen to that!

Hadithi! Hadithi!

Education is a big development issue across the continent. Access to schools is for many a major problem. Parents often require their children to help them out with work, or perform many other tasks, many have to walk long distances to school and others simply can’t afford to attend. Within schools there can be other hurdles to jump over. I have seen on occasions sub standard teachers, inappropriate learning environments, and a distinct lack of access to information. And, if there are not things for children to read, they will struggle with basic written and verbal communication, and fail to learn other things.

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There are a number of services in Africa that aim to give better access to information for students. But few of them are accessible in local languages with English and French the go to languages. But that also leaves the issue of a cultural disconnect, because local dialect is as important as learning a more widely spoken one. Hadithi! Hadithi!, created by eLimu, is a literacy app for 6 to 8 year olds, which contains stories written in local languages, by local teachers. Languages from Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and South Sudan are currently being used to help young students read and learn. The application covers the local curricula, and contains sentence making, spelling, letter tracing and games.

eLimu also have a number of other products aimed at other age groups. They also help train teachers to integrate technology into schools, and have revision help for students, with past papers and notes accessible online.

In 2020 NEF will have its next edition in Kenya, but in the mean time they will continue to support the best of the best in Africa to become the world’s next generation of scientific excellence. Keep your eyes open for more African scientific break throughs, that now have a platform to tell the world.

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Did You Know the next Einstein will be an African?

Did You Know the next Einstein will be an African?

This month we lost one of the greatest scientific minds the world has seen. Professor Stephen Hawking’s work as a theoretical physicist gained him notoriety throughout the scientific community, and made him widely known throughout the world, proven by the huge outpouring of emotional from every continent following his death. There is no doubt that he was a hugely gifted man, whose education and residence at Cambridge University, gave him a platform for brilliance. But, if he had been born in Africa, would things have turned out the same.

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Changing the perceptions of Africa’s scientific excellence

It is hard to speculate, and maybe his brilliant mind would still have taken him to great places. But, limited opportunities for the best of the best academic minds creates many challenges and hurdles to overcome to make sure brilliance is utilised. Getting through the education system to reach university is the first challenge, and if that is hurdled, it is then necessary to find the fees to attend a university, and then hope that they are get the right development opportunities within the university. It is possible, but very tough.

Even when you finish university, where do you go. If you haven’t already had to travel oversees to get the best education, you may have to now travel oversees to get an internship with the best firm. This paints a very negative view on education in Africa, I know, and this is certainly a generalisation, but cultivating an excellent mind in Africa simply isn’t easy, which is why only 2 percent of global scientific research comes from Africa!

If you ask people to mention an African scientist of note, they may find it difficult to answer. But with a huge population, the talent is certainly not lacking. And to exclude the excellence of Africa is a great loss to academia worldwide. Scientific knowledge from Africa can only benefit worldwide research, and must be cultivated. Fortunately, there are a group that are intent on making that a reality and finding the next Einstein.

You may have heard of the Next Einstein Forum, which is an initiative launched by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), aimed at connecting science, society and policy in Africa and the rest of the world. Their goal is to “leverage science for human develop globally” and making sure that Africa are part of that process. That are an essential driving force behind Africa’s scientific renaissance, and they want the world to know about it, by making sure that scientific breakthroughs within the continent or by African mathematicians and scientists do not go missed by world media.

Aptly, this year the forum was in Kigali, Rwanda. The president himself, who sees Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) vitally important for the development of the Rwandan economy hosted the forum.  With over 1000 attendees, 50% of them under the age of 42, and 40% of whom were women, the event is incredibly diverse, which fits with such a diverse continent.

A general theme of health, education and the gender gap ran through this years event. And within these themes a plethora of topics were covered, including Accelerating Africa’s lab to market process, Blockchain opportunities, driving innovation through Africa’s digital economy, laying the foundation for knowledge leg economies and changing the way we learn and building scientific culture early on. I wish I could go through all of these topics individually, but there simply not enough words in a blog to do so, but fortunately for us, NEF have a youtube channel in which many of the discussions are already documented. (I urge you to go and check out the videos, some of the interviews are incredibly inspiring!)

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Scientific African – A new peer reviewed journal

One exciting news from the forum was the launch of Scientific African, an open access journal, which aims to boost the reach and impact of research by Africans globally. This peer reviewed publications will give a place for scientific break throughs from Africans, to be published and showcased to the scientific community and others worldwide. Many do not consider the African continent with regards to excellence in general, and it is important that African’s are present representing excellence in every sector, from business, to heath and in this case science. Showcasing African excellence in this manner will help to open the minds of people worldwide to the truth that the continent is packed full of brilliant individuals.

This will also have a knock on effect, in line with the mission of the NEF and AIMS, to promote STEM to young Africans. If they are to find the next Einstein (And Zuckerberg, Hawking and Brunel for that matter) the youth need to see maths and sciences as an attractive option from an early stage.

And event like this in Africa would not be complete without an innovation competition, and they didn’t disappoint. With 16 winners announced, NEF is another exciting location to see the best innovations of Africa. In subsequent blogs we will have a look through some of our favourites from the finalists.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and the Next Einstein Forum are an incredible opportunity for Africa to showcase its excellence to the world and itself. Many young African’s will be inspired by the knowledge that there is a platform that aims to support their excellence. They make it possible for the best students form the continent to receive the best education, without leaving to the US or America. These are schemes that need to be supported, pushed and boosted by the public and the private sector. Cultivating the next generation of excellence in Africa, and taking another step towards creating an African continent that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world, if not head and shoulders above.

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Did You Know Innovation can damage Africa?

Did You Know Innovation can damage Africa?

African innovation is spoken about with such high regard by those that live in the continent, and those outside that understand the implications. There are massive changes taking place across the continent, although they are often limited to areas in which there is stable power, internet and mobile phone connection. Nevertheless, a huge population of people are having their lives changed by the internet and connected phones.

Whether gaining agricultural advice, having access to educational information and prices of goods, or powering your house via a solar mini grid, lives of many are changing across the continent. And while we talk positively and enthusiastically about these changes sometimes we fail to acknowledge that they are happening so quickly, there is often no chance to for people to understand their implications, both positively and negatively.

One example of this is the rising availability of mobile loans to people who haven’t previously had access. With mobile phone usage, and the popularity of mobile money, those who do not have a bank account are now finding themselves in a situation where their transaction data can be used to build up a credit rating. With this, they can be offered micro financing in order to develop their businesses, or even for personal development, such as school fees. Credit is vitally important for small businesses owners, such as subsistence  farmers, so they can invest in their business, plan better and create more efficiencies and therefore more profit. Companies such as Lending Square are offering a great service, but is it being used by citizens for positivity.

The problem is, when people take out a loan, there are often no regulations in place to make sure that people are using it for that reason. On the 25th of March, a report came out suggesting that many Kenyans were falling into a pit of disaster by taking advantage of micro finance loans offered to them. 6.5 million Kenyans are taking advantage of these loans, which is unsurprising as the mobile money system their is far more advanced than across the continent. Whilst a lot of course do use the micro financing as it was intended, to develop their businesses,  many are using it to pay off existing loans, or even to gamble with.

Such irresponsible usage of micro financing can and will obviously cause disaster for many people. By continuously refinancing loans, and falling further and further into debt, people will be left worse off than in the first place, meaning businesses can begin to fail, and certainly not get the required capital to develop. This not only has a devastating effect on the life of the individual and his family, but also on local economies. If many take up the micro loans, and squander the money on other things, then there will be a lack of growth across small businesses in some areas, leaving the local economy in tatters.

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That people actually take this loan and gamble with it is a symptom of the same problem and incredibly sad. Lack of education around the topic of finances and lack of time to sensitise people to the issues around loans and gambling. In many ways, they are in the same category, as there is no guarantee that investing a loan in your small business, will make a stark difference. As I mentioned in a previous blog, gambling is quickly getting out of hand within Africa. In the last 10 years, casinos and small betting shops, often in a little container in rural communities, have increased in number exponentially in Ghana. During my time in Kenya, I also couldn’t help but notice that gambling had gained prominence in many towns and cities.

Of course, the world over has many with gambling addictions, as well as those that take loans to repay loans, and find themselves in increasingly difficult situations. In Ghana, and I am sure other parts of the continent, people have long since played the lottery, pouring over the previous data to try and find a pattern and becoming obsessed with winning against the odds. But in Africa there was a chance to make sure that the right education was put in place before gambling and loans gained prominence. The hope is, that it is not too late to assist those who have already fallen into this hole, and educate those who have not yet thought about gambling and using loans for unproductive reasons.

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Lotto Kiosk in Ghana

There also must be measures taken to make sure that people that take out loans use the credit to develop their businesses, skills, and the local economy. There of course needs to be a certain amount of freedom in usage of personal capital, but in the case of loans, the money essentially belongs to the loaner. If these companies are to remain ethical, they must ensure that capital is used productively.

Innovation usually a positive, especially for a continent, which has lagged behind much of the world, economically. Innovation can assist Africa to catch up and even surpass other nations worldwide. But we need to prepare people for the changes. It is not just loans and gambling. Social media and the internet also cause vulnerable situations for many, who are not clear on how much personal information they should share, as well as the potentials of fraud. Even the potential depression and anxiety issues, or body image issues caused by an obsession with social media perfection is an issue that is not covered enough in schools or generally in Africa. Many people are struggling with new technologies worldwide, and measures need to be taken so that people understand the potential negative implications.

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Did You Know African Women are inspiring African innovators?

Did You Know African Women are inspiring African innovators?

International Women’s Day is today, and organisations, companies and individuals across the world are celebrating the achievements of women. Equality is a well discussed topic throughout the world, yet still now, in many industries women are under represented, and not paid equally. The technology and innovation sector seems to be attempting to close the divide of the sexes. Traditionally only few women have taking up computer engineering roles, and working on innovation, and therefore the aim of achieving parity between the sexes needs a lot of work.

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In much of Africa, traditional social values, and education of the girl child is not a priority for many families and this has had a great impact on the amount of women in professional roles, especially in technology. The democratisation of information, especially with the increasing spread of the internet and mobile devices, means that there are now other ways for anyone to empower themselves. There has also been a huge effort put into getting more young girls into school, to give them more choice in the future.

During the last two years writing about African innovation, I have had the pleasure of reading about many inspirational women, who are coming up with innovative ideas and creating businesses. In many households across the continent it is women that have the responsibility of finding solutions to make ends meet within the family. Creativity takes practice, and the need to come up with solutions makes women very well placed to innovate for a better Africa.

Below are couple of the women that have stood out to us whilst producing Inventive Africa.

Hawawu Mustapha Yaajalal and her innovation MyDoc Ghana were the subject of the most viewed post on Inventive Africa. I met Hawawu at iSpace Ghana, a technology hub that gives many the tools to develop their own businesses. I asked whether anyone would be willing to stand in front of camera briefly for a short interview spontaneously Continue reading “Did You Know African Women are inspiring African innovators?”

Did You Know money transfer to Africa is getting cheaper and quicker?

Did You Know money transfer to Africa is getting cheaper and quicker?

Fintech is big news this year in Africa, and throughout the world for that matter. Bitcoin, and other crypto currencies have brought the potential of new financial mechanisms to the forefront of those that had never considered changing their financial instruments previously. As people speculate on crypto currencies, and mobile money becomes even more popular across the African continent, there is more of an awareness that simply using cash, or a bank account, is not the only option any more.

With this awareness comes a craving from the market for more solutions to financial problems. We have seen this across many financial instruments. Mobile money has made payments more convenient, brought many new individuals into banking, enabled people to get credit ratings, and even helped people with medical insurance. Micro loans can now be facilitated online, enabling people to develop their small businesses, and people even have new ways of paying for their mini solar grids for the house.

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Zidisha offer incredible micro loan and investment opportunities

Another big issue, that is yet to be solved fully in Africa is in the remittances sector. The figure seems to very, but around $33 billion in remittances flowed into the continent in 2016. That is a significant amount of many African economies, with 10 countries receiving 3% of their GDP through this method.

The problem is, that it can be time consuming and costly to send money from outside of Africa into Africa, and even within Africa itself. Western Union and Moneygram have, for a long time, cornered the market, but the percentages on payments that they take are Continue reading “Did You Know money transfer to Africa is getting cheaper and quicker?”

Did You Know inventive Africa wants to meet you in Kenya!

Did You Know inventive Africa wants to meet you in Kenya!

Kenya has been at the forefront of African innovation for the last few years. With Safaricom driving innovation, and taking mobile money to the next level with M-Pesa and it’s spinoffs, the Kenyan population, whether urban or rural, are becoming used to new technology, and craving technology in order to develop their small businesses and personal lives.

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iHub, probably the most famous of Africa’s technology hubs, as well as other tech centres, are also driving innovation in Kenya. It is no coincidence they have the support of the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Google, as well as receiving a visit from Mark Zuckerberg, who has also been excited by Kenya’s innovative expansion. Hubs like these are helping the youth develop their skills and cultivate their creativity, preparing them to create the next wave of African solutions, and hopefully solutions worldwide.

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In Nairobi, the Nairobi innovation week, which takes place at the University of Nairobi, aims at showcasing the latest technology, and inspiring others to follow through with their ideas. The private and public sector, investors, research centres, development partners and even the President attend the event, which is part of the Kenyan innovation social calendar, and a must visit if you happen to be in the area.

The innovative nature of Kenya, and the excitement surrounding the country, is why Inventive Africa has decided to go and visit to document Kenyan innovation with our own eyes. I will first attend the Co-Willing conference in Ukunda, which will discuss how Africa can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and then head to Nairobi to visit iHub and meet with the Nairobi Innovation Week team to discuss how technology is changing Africa.

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Inventive Africa wants to meet you!

While I am there, I would like to take the opportunity to talk to other innovative Kenyans about their ideas and aspirations. It would be wonderful to make some video blogs about Kenyan start ups, and also see what difficulties entrepreneurs are facing in getting their ideas off the ground.

If you are interested in featuring on Inventive Africa, and are available from the 25th of January in Nairobi, get in contact on InventiveAfrica1@gmail.com or contact us on Twitter. I am very much looking forward to meeting you!

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