Africa’s health tech takes flight in the fight against COVID
Image: WHO AFRO
The Urumuri robot helping to screen passengers at Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport is just one of more than 120 health technology innovations that Africans are using in the fight against COVID-19.
That’s according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) analysis of 1,000 new or modified technologies developed around the world and deployed as the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the planet from its origins in Wuhan, China.
Africa accounts for 12.8 percent of tech innovations applied in disease surveillance, contact tracing, treatment and other health care spheres. South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda are leading the way with IT development, 3D printing applications and robotics.
“COVID-19 is one of the most serious health challenges in a generation, but it is also an opportunity to drive forward innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurship in life-saving health technologies,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO director for Africa, who spoke alongside representatives from Niger, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
“It’s great to see the youthful energy of the continent fired up to fight COVID-19. Solar-powered automatic handwashing tools, mobile applications that build on Africa’s rapidly growing connectivity. These home-grown innovations are uniquely adapted to the African context.”
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the largest number of economies punching above their weight when it comes to their respective levels of development, but WHO said much more investment is needed in health innovation.
“We know that investing in innovation yields huge dividends,” Moeti said. “With COVID-19 and other health threats part of our daily life, there’s no time to waste in creating the right environment for African innovators to flourish.”