From Contact Tracing to 3D-Printed PPEs, Here are Innovative Ways Africans are Fighting Coronavirus


Africa confirmed its first coronavirus case on February 14 and about 2 months later, there have been over 34,200 confirmed cases. This figure, however, shows that Africa is not as badly hit by the virus as other continents. In Europe for example, over 1.3 million people have been confirmed to be infected.

Despite these otherwise low figures, there are fears that the continent cannot handle a full-blown outbreak because of its poor healthcare system. As such, there is a need for innovators to step up with solutions to fight the spread of the virus as the best strategy.

Hubs, startups, innovators have been at the fore of sponsoring and pioneering innovative projects and solutions to combat the virus. The World Health Organsation (WHO) itself organised a hackathon for innovators on the continent.

From WhatsApp chatbots to mobile tech solutions and IoT devices, here are some innovations from across the continent to help curtail the spread of Covid-19.

Self Assessment Platforms/Chat Bots

Many people with similar symptoms to the COVID-19 want to confirm if they have it or it’s just something else. Several others have other questions regarding the coronavirus, and with hoaxes flying around, it makes it more difficult to determine what is true and what is not.

In Nigeria, an on-demand health information and service platform, Wellvis has developed a web app called COVID-19 Triaging App to help people determine their risk factor of having Covid-19. With the advice given on the platform, users can determine if they need to call the Disease Control Hotline or not.

In South Africa also, the government has launched a WhatsApp chatbot. Similar to the WHO chatbot, the chat service answers common queries about COVID-19 myths, symptoms, and treatment. And since its launch, the service has reached over 3.5 million people in five different languages.

Test Kits/Booths

Institut Pasteur de Dakar, a specialised research facility in Senegal, has developed a $1 test kit that can deliver results in 10 minutes. The test kits were made using technology from malaria and pregnancy test kits and can test for COVID-19 antibodies anywhere.

This not only shortens the time needed for testing individuals, it also democratises the test procedure as everyone can afford to buy the kits and test to confirm if they have the virus or not.

In Nigeria also, doctor and founder of air-ambulance service, Flying Doctors, Ola Brown, has developed specialised walk-in booths for COVID-19 tests. These booths help save the government the cost of single-use Personal Protective Equipment  (PPE) as well as protect many frontline health workers who might not have adequate PPE.

3D-Printed PPE

Across the globe, PPE supplies are being disrupted as demand is way higher than the supply. But South African based AI innovator, Natalie Raphil is working to provide cheap medical masks for hospitals using 3D printers. She is currently printing over 100 masks a day for distribution to hospitals in Johannesburg.

3D printed face shields to protect Hong Kong medical staff from ...
3D Printed Face Masks

Similarly in Senegal, engineers have been using 3D printers to print out ventilators at $60. This is several times cheaper than what it originally costs on the international scene.

Smart Devices

A group of students at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria have developed a smart bracelet that helps users resist touching their face, thus eliminating the risk of contacting coronavirus.

The device has a smart sensor that beeps loudly once users take his/her hands towards their faces. Beyond that, it also holds hand sanitizer which is released onto the user’s hands momentarily to remind them to sanitize. It also has a temperature monitor that checks and alerts the users if they exhibit symptoms of the virus.

Contact Tracing

In Nigeria, a startup called cMapIt analytics is using a Geographic Information System (GIS) and data visualisation software to visualise geospatial data and show places an infected person visited.

Contact Tracing, 3D-Printed PPE and Other Ways Africans are Fighting Covid-19

With the software, the location data of an infected person’s phone can be used to trace all the locations they have been to within the time frame being considered. This is potentially crucial to reducing the size of outbreaks, as it provides data to make it easier for suspected cases to be monitored.

There you have it, several ways Africans are contributing in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

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