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African Ingenuity

Egypt, Uganda and Liberia take the top prize for Innovation at the 2017 IPA

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Five years ago, the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) initiated the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) to support African innovators by unlocking their potential and catalyzing the African innovation spirit, promoting home-grown solutions for Africa’s prosperity.

The sixth edition of the coveted IPA culminated with a bang in July as the AIF awarded three more African innovators for their incredible innovations. Out of the total of over 2500 applications, 10 nominees were selected, and from these Aly El-Shafei of Egypt emerged as the Grand Prize winner, with Philippa Ngaju Makobore of Uganda landing the Second Prize, and Dougbeh-Chris Nyan of Liberia winning the Special Prize for Social Impact. Each one of the seven remaining nominees also went home with US$ 5 000 voucher to be used to further develop their innovations. Moreover, all nominees and winners will benefit from IPA post prize activities aiming at moving their innovations to the next level.

2017 Winners

Grand Prize Winner – $100,000

Dr. El-Shafei (Egypt)

The main obstacle in increasing electricity generation capacity in Africa continues to be the high cost of producing electricity, which is forcing governments to subsidize consumption. Dr. El-Shafei’s innovation, Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuator Journal Integrated Bearing (SEMAJIB), is a world-class solution that supports energy generating turbines and can be used to improve efficiency and reduce costs of generating energy in Africa. This technology is patented in the US since 2010 and a newer version is patent pending also in the US.

Prof. Aly El-Shafei received his bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Cairo University, Egypt, and his Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) all in Mechanical Engineering. Dr. El-Shafei is a recipient of several grants and awards.

2nd Prize Winner – $25,000

Philippa Ngaju Makobore (Uganda)

Electronically Controlled Gravity Feed Infusion Set (ECFG) by Philippa, who bagged the Second Prize of US$ 25 000, is designed to accurately administer intravenous (IV) fluids and drugs by controlling the rate of fluid flow based on feedback from a drop sensor. It is easy to operate and has key safety features, which include alarms for rate of infusion (rapid or slow), total volume (over or under) and faulty sensors. A battery utilizing a hybrid (AC mains and solar) charging bed powers the device. IV infusions are critical for both adults and children in various situations. Over 10% of children admitted to East African hospitals need immediate infusion therapy. Findings from the FEAST trial indicates that over-infusion in children increased the absolute risk of death by 3.3 % at 48 hours. Erroneous delivery rates can result into serious adverse effects. The ECGF has the potential to save lives by providing accuracy and safety at 8% the cost of a brand new infusion pump.

Philippa Ngaju Makobore has a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alberta, Canada and a professional certificate in Embedded Systems Engineering from the University of California, Irvine, USA. She is a recipient of numerous healthcare awards.

Social Impact Prize Winner – $25,000

 

Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan (Liberia)

Dr. Dougbeh, who was awarded the Special Prize for Social Impact of US$25 000, developed a rapid test that can detect and simultaneously differentiate at least three to seven infections at the same time. His diagnostic test is fast and easy to use in any setting and is able to detect and distinguish multiple infections which bear the same symptoms for instance, when a patient has yellow fever, malaria, and Ebola. Whereas most testing methods take three to seven days, this device gives test results in ten to forty minutes. Dougbeh is currently working on the second prototype of his innovation after obtaining positive results from his first prototype. The results have been validated with human clinical samples, peer-reviewed and published in several respected scientific journals such as “Nature-Scientific Reports.” His innovation has the potential of being a game changer in the continent in the detection and management of infectious diseases for quality patient-care.

Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan, is a medical doctor, a biomedical research scientist, an inventor, and a social activist at the same time. He studied zoology and chemistry at the College of Science and Technology of the University of Liberia and earned a degree in human-medicine (infectious diseases) from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Medizinische Fakultät – Charité in Germany. He was later trained as a biomedical scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA.

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African Ingenuity

Ephraim Banadda is First African to Win Pius XI Medal

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Professor Banadda receiving the Pius XI Medal from Pope Francis.

Prof. Noble Banadda (R) receives his Pius XI Medal from His Holiness Pope Frances at the award ceremony on 12th November 2018 in the Vatican

Makerere Professor Ephraim Banadda has become the first African to win the Pius XI medal, scooping the 2018 award. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences gives the award to recognize outstanding scientific research.

Ephraim Banadda

Professor Banadda is a Ugandan scientist born in 1975. He was the first African to get a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. The institution is one of the oldest universities in the world—established in 1425. Professor Banadda also holds MSc in Processing Engineering from the same institution.

The professor took his undergraduate studies at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and holds BSc Food Science and Technology from the Tanzanian institution. At the age of 37, Noble Banadda was appointed a full professor at the University of Makerere.

The professor is the current Chair of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. In 2013, the Professor became the youngest fellow to join the Uganda National Academy of Sciences. In 2015, Professor Banadda was among the seven Africans who qualified for the Next Einstein Fellowship.

The Pius XI medal recognizes Professor Banadda’s contributions in scientific research. The professor’s research interests are in biological systems, mathematical modeling, and renewable energy. In addition, the professor has authored over 80 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has over 1,1395 citations on Google Scholar.

Some of Professor’s Banadda’s known works and innovations include making diesel from plastic materials. The Professor also developed a solar irrigation system. In 2015, Professor Banadda launched the first Makerere University MV Mulimi, a cost-effective farmers’ tractor. A year later in 2016, the professor unveiled organic pesticide made from agricultural waste. These achievements demonstrate that the Professor has been at the forefront of agricultural innovation in Uganda.

The Pius XI Medal

The Pius XI medal was launched in 1961, and the academy has awarded 28 winners since the inception. The academy itself, however, was found in 1936 by the Holy Father Pius XI. In 1961, Pope John XXIII established the Gold medal to recognize young scientists under the age of 45. The award recognizes scientists who work free of economic, ideological, or political interests. Professor Banadda received his medal on 12 November 2018 at the Papal Wing at the Vatican.

The selection process for the Pius XI medal is a well-kept secret. The Vatican is the venue for the award ceremony, and the Pope himself awards the medal to the winner. Professor Banadda received his medal on 12 November 2018 at the Papal Wing at the Vatican. The 2018 Pius XI Medal recognizes Professor Banadda’s outstanding scientific research and publication.

The professor aspires to one day join the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, whose alumni include Galileo Galileo and several Nobel Prize winners in the fields of Physics, Medicine, Space engineering, Stem Biology, and Mathematics.

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African Ingenuity

Tanzania Blockchain Baby is the World’s First

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Tanzania blockchain baby

Tanzania blockchain baby is the first in the world and is making headlines all over. Africa is doing all it can to improve the lives of its citizens in all spheres of life.

Blockchain is a technology that allows distribution (and not copying) of digital information. It was originally created for digital currencies (cryptocurrencies) such as Bitcoin. A blockchain is simply a series of absolute or immutable data records. A bunch of computers not owned by any single entity manage these records. Each of these single blocks is bound to the other using cryptographic technology and principles, what is called a chain. In this way, a blockchain is a way of passing information from one point to another in a safe and automated manner. This is the technology on Tanzania blockchain baby.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” – Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016).

Blockchain Technology and Maternal Health

In an effort to improve access to good healthcare, Africa is making history in the world. The latest feat towards improving maternal health is Tanzania blockchain baby. It is difficult to connect blockchain technology and maternal health (leave alone a baby) but be as it may, Africa has a baby through blockchain. As if this is not amazing enough, blockchain does not have only one, but three babies in Tanzania.

The project by Irish AID: Tech and Dutch PharmAccess was initially funded to tackle controversies in the charitable industry in areas of equitable distribution of donations. In order to track the aid given to susceptible women, the project decided to use blockchain technology in facilitating proper distribution of this aid. Additionally, they used this technology to share important data and to streamline the entire support process. This record keeping technology for cryptocurrencies and bitcoins is a major breakthrough for the Tanzania blockchain baby.

Tanzania Blockchain Baby Technology

According to reports, Tanzania blockchain baby feat was born last July but has just come to the limelight. Aid:Tech is an Irish project and it seems it has finally found a humanitarian application of blockchain technology. The technology seeks to digitally identify pregnant women and provide them with the support and care they require in Tanzania. These digital IDs allow women to get proper access to vital elements such as folic acid. The technology also uses IDs to track the pregnancy progress from the initial women data entry to the blockchain, to delivery.

On 13th of July 2018, the first Tanzania blockchain baby was born. Two more followed this Tanzania blockchain bay a week later on 19th July 2018. This brought the blockchain babies to a total of three bundles of joy. Currently, the technology has made it possible for the mothers to get access to postnatal care as well as following up on doctor’s appointments and receiving needed medications. This distributed ledgers technology is lighting a new path towards better access to better maternal health in Africa.

How Blockchain Technology Works for Blockchain Babies   

According to recent reports by Forbes, the technology works like this;

  • Each pregnant woman receives a digital ID.
  • The digital ID entitles the woman to get access to important vitamins such as folic acid.
  • Additionally, the ID tracks the pregnancy progress through data added to the blockchain.
  • The tracking starts after the woman is first registered, through medical appointments to birth.
  • Currently, the system also allows women to receive postnatal care and follow-up doctor’s appointments as needed.

This Tanzania blockchain baby technology project has well-meaning goals for infants and mothers in Tanzania. The country has high infant mortality rates that currently stand at 556 deaths per 100,000 live births. In addition to other healthcare challenges, Tanzania also has difficulties in getting fund donations from well-wishers to deserving women. For these two reasons, the project was established and it is working quite well.

Joseph Thompson co-founded AID:Tech in order to provide more transparency in the distribution of aid to deserving people. The idea came as a result of his previous encounter with aid distribution fraud. The organization made the first successful attempt at aid distribution to Syrian refuges in Lebanon in 2015 using blockchain technology. The system encountered fraud in food vouchers where wrongful beneficiaries would benefit. The system invalidated these vouchers.

Global Recognition

The United Nations named AID:Tech one of their ten global Sustainable Development Goal Pioneers for 2017. Additionally, many private investors got interested in blockchain technology and how it can deliver important aid. For this reason, the organization drew interest from private investors such as Enterprise Ireland, TechStars, SGInnovate and American backer Jason Calacanis. The list also includes Rockefeller and Expo2020.

Despite immense global recognition, it is the Tanzania blockchain baby that elevates the project to international limelight and popularity.

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African Ingenuity

One of The Oldest Tribes In Africa Was Kicked Out Of Their Homes And Here Is What Happened

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Displaced Batwa Tribe

The Batwa tribe is one of the oldest in Africa. They originally resided in the rainforests of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. They survived many decades through hunting and gathering. However, in the 1990s, the government evicted them from the rainforest leaving them homeless. This and subsequent events threw them into poverty.

The actions of the governments of the three countries were prompted by the need to create a national park. The national parks helped to preserve the population of endangered gorillas in the Virunga Mountains. Since then, the population of the gorillas has grown to 880 in 2018 from 284 in 1981. Tourists now pay a huge amount to spend one hour with the apes. The parks have become a huge money spinner for the East African countries. However, the Batwa tribe paid the price.

A glimmer of hope for eighteen Batwa families

Volcanoes Safaris, a luxury lodge operator was drawn to the plight of the Batwa tribe condemned to squat in Uganda’ farmland. The founder of Volcanoes Safari, Praveen Moman was touched by their appalling livelihood. Moman first met the Batwa tribe when he opened the Mount Gahinga Lodge in 1997 on the outskirts of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The encounter sparked their relationship.

Through the Volcanoes Safari Partnership Trust, Moman gifted ten acres of land to the tribe.  When asked about what motivated his actions, Moman said,

“Generally, we want to support people and improve their livelihood in relation to the work we do at our lodges. It was a bunch of rocks on which they built little shacks of twigs, of tarpaulins, of cardboard—whatever they could get.”

All the material used for the construction of the new village were donations from the guests at Mount Gahinga lodge and the Volcanoes Safari Trust. However, Uganda-based Studio FH architects’ contribution was in terms of supervision services and free designs.

A glimpse into the new settlement for the Batwa tribe

The village consists of eighteen houses each measuring twenty square meters. Each of the homes boasts of a bedroom, common room and a covered veranda which also serves as the kitchen. Eucalyptus poles with bamboo crisscross form a grid and make up the walls. However, the roofing consists of metal sheets with papyrus coating.

Batwa Village Home

The builders took some steps to ensure the safety of these eco-friendly homes. First, the buildings have compact spacing for wind protection as well as to conserve farming lands. Secondly, the verandas face opposite of the direction of strong winds from the volcanoes. To ensure proper sanitation, two buildings containing latrines lie in the slopes on one side of the village.

The Batwa tribe village also has a community center on a 100 square meter space. Consequently, the dome-shaped community center is intended to be used for multiple purposes that involves public gathering. The official opening of the village was in May 2018.

Batwa tribe village community center

The 2018 Emerging Architecture Awards

The contributions of Studio FH Architects to the Batwa tribe also earned them a place on the 2018 Emerging Architecture Awards list. The prestigious award instituted in 1999 honors young designers who create a positive impact in their environment through architectural designs.

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