Africans are naturally problem solvers. This innate ability was what made African societies one of the most economically advanced groups all over the world before the advent of slave trade in the early 15th century. It is no accident that some of the world's finest technology fabrications were often developed by one or group of individuals who often have ties that spill back to African roots.
Before the advent of the slave trade 'menace' that forcefully exploited African labour for the development of Europe and other parts of the world, Africans had developed some of the world's most efficient machineries, transport systems, medium of exchange compilers and other such products that made life easier and business convenient for the society at that time. Some of these ancient technologies have now been studied, adapted and developed, forming the foundation for most modern-day scientific advancements. Even though Africa as a continent has not fully evolved into becoming a force to reckon with when it comes to birthing ground breaking technology, a few inventions from certain African minds have stepped forward to challenge and improve this status quo. This piece would be casting light on a few African inventors and how their inventions are improving the standard of living in their local communities.
Kodjo Afate Gnikou: turning waste into riches
Electronic waste around the world grew to 44.7 million tonnes in 2016. 60-90% of this waste is being illegally traded and sent to Asia and Western Africa. A young inventor in Togo, Kodjo Afate Gnikou, in 2013, created a cheap 3D printer using electronic waste. Working from Woelab, a community for innovation and a “space for democratic technology” in Togo’s capital city, Lomé, he symbolised the bottom-up development that is occurring alongside more conventional approaches.
Brian Turyabagye: jacket detector for pneumonia
Ugandan engineer Brian Turyabagye designed a biomedical "smart jacket" to quickly and accurately diagnose pneumonia. The Mamaope jacket measures a sick child's temperature and breathing rate. It can diagnose pneumonia three to four times faster than a doctor and eliminates most possibilities for human error.
This detector works as a modified stethoscope put in a vest. It is linked to a mobile phone app that records the audio of the patient's chest. Analysis of that audio can detect lung crackles and can lead to preliminary diagnoses.
Beth Koigi: Water ATMs
Beth Koigi, an entrepreneur, created Majik Water in Kenya — a stellar illustration of innovation. Majik Water harvests water from the air to provide water which is affordable, clean and safe for drinking. This is then held in “Water ATM’s” which enable people to ‘withdraw’ the amount of water they need.
Water ATMs are already popular in Kenya, but Magik Water breaks the mould by actively seeking ways to supplement this technology with something affordable.
Collince Olouch - Digital vaccination recorder
Using your own life experiences to create systems that can improve the lives of others is a skill Collince Oluoch knows well. Through his own experiences as a vaccination volunteer, he was driven to innovate and create a model that would address the shortcomings that he witnessed.
He created Chanjoplus — an impressive online system that helps parents and healthcare workers maintain records and keep children up to date with lifesaving vaccinations. Chanjoplus is even built into Kenya’s national healthcare system, meaning Olouch’s creation is already helping to yield far-reaching, life-saving results.
Arthur Zang - Cardiopad
A program on the Cardiopad, designed by 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer Arthur Zang, collects signals generated by the rhythmic contraction and expansion of a patient's heart. Electrodes are fixed near the patient's heart. Africa's first fully touch-screen medical tablet then produces a moving graphical depiction of the cardiac cycle, which is wirelessly transmitted over GSM networks to a cardiologist for interpretation and diagnosis.
A recent survey showed that three in every five persons who use the Cardiopad have been diagnosed as hypertensive, or at risk of heart disease. So far Africans have been striving to even the scales of development on the continent with their innovation. And even though we are far from being out of the woods, we continue to observe patterns of a home-green industrial revolution – signalling green shoots of capacity. It is in this footprint that African governments and other concerned authorities must invest.
At Power of Africa, we are sold to this approach. It is this promise lens that underpins our renewed strategic interest in Africa. We choose to see African innovation as part of a transformative change process. Africa must put her people first and help propagate a showcase of talent by investing in creativity, resilience, and resourcefulness. Supporting this untapped potential is what the next generation of African inventors demands of all of us.