Last week, the Innovation Prize for Africa announced their nominees for this years event, which will take place in Accra, Ghana in July. Over the last 5 years, the IPA has become one of the most anticipated innovation events in Africa. Over the years they have handed out around $1 million to incredible innovations and startups throughout the African continent.
The IPA was created 5 years ago by the African Innovation Foundation, who are based in Switzerland and aim to “increase the prosperity of Africans by catalysing the innovation spirit in Africa. We want to see needs-based innovation and change happen.” AIF also support various other projects across Africa, including the African Law Library, which we covered in Inventive Africa.
In our last blog, we featured 3 of the nominees from the IPA. This years nominees are so diverse, exciting and inspirational that it was not possible to cover them all in one blog. This year, 4 of the nominees were in the health sector. Health innovations have features widely on Inventive Africa and have covered anything from mobile phones used in eye care, to CT scanners. Here are our thoughts on a few more of the nominees and their innovations from the health category.
Rapid Detection of Many Infections Using Only One Test
Getting sicknesses diagnosed in Africa can be time consuming and frustrating. I have sat for many an hour in hospital waiting for results to come through. Sometimes they come back as negative and then, the process starts again to diagnose the illness. I have heard horror stories of children being medicine for a headache, rather than malaria after being wrongly diagnosed.
This new technology, developed by Dougbeh-Chris Nyan in Liberia, enables doctors to make a diagnosis on many infections at the same time within 40 minutes. This technology not only cuts down on waiting times, it also ensures that even when the diagnostics systems and expertise are limited, patients can get a reliable diagnosis, and there for be treated correctly. It is simple to use and can be deployed anywhere, so it is perfect for remote rural areas.
In the example above, where the young lad was misdiagnosed purely on his symptoms, this technology can diagnose between infections that have similar symptoms such as malaria, ebola, and yellow fever. In the case of these dangerous highly infectious diseases, the short turn around time in diagnosis will significantly cut the risk of an infection spreading down.
In 2015 there were 2.7 million cases of TB in Africa, 750,000 of whom died from the infectious disease. TB, which effects the lungs, is particularly difficult for those who suffer from HIV. It is estimated that over 3 million incidents of TB are missed due to misdiagnosis and other cases being missed altogether. In order to diagnose TB, patients must often go to a clinic on various occasions, giving a sample of sputum, for high tech diagnosis. That is only the lucky patients, as many rural regions of Africa do not have the facilities to test for TB.
The Sweat TB test makes the process a lot quicker, and without the need for a needle or any invasiveness. The test “leverages a TB specific marker in the sweat of patients, to produce a point- of- care test to detect TB”. Like so many innovations in the health sector in Africa at the moment, this gives the chance for patients, no matter how remote or rural to have a test for TB and get the results, and medicine within the same short visit to the clinic. This could revolutionise TB care in Africa and all across the world.
As we have pointed out again and again, access to decent health care can be difficult in parts of Africa. Wrong diagnosis, lack of equipment, lack of a nearby health facility, or even a shortage in specialists can impact on the quality of health care. In previous blogs we have shown how some innovations are bringing specialists to patients remotely through mobile devices.
Dr CADx, which we also featured on Inventive Africa 7 months ago, is a software solution that helps doctors and health care workers diagnose medical images more accurately. Due to the scarcity of radiologists on the continent, most medical images are read by general doctors or other health care workers who lack expertise and end up misdiagnosing more than 30% of the cases that they review. As a result, millions of patients fail to get the right treatment or the treatment is delayed leading to more complications and even death. Dr CADx uses deep learning to interpret medical images and achieve an accuracy of 82% an improvement over the 70% average for radiologists. Dr CADx is designed to work in low resource settings with poor internet connectivity opening it up for use in many rural settings in Africa.
We still haven’t covered all the cool innovations featured in the IPA shortlist, so expect a part 3 covering the rest! The final will be held in Ghana next month, so keep your eyes open for the winner!
If you know of an innovation that is changing lives, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!
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