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Meet the top 30 finalists of the WHO Africa Innovation Challenge

The World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO) has announced the top 30 finalists of the inaugural WHO Africa Innovation Challenge.

In a statement last Thursday (7 March) WHO AFRO said the finalists were selected from 2471 applications — with more than a third of these from women — from a total of 77 countries, 44 of them from Africa.

Among all 2471 applications, 639 made it to the evaluation phase. A panel of independent evaluators selected the top 30 based on their impact potential, as well the innovation’s ability to scale in a sustainable way.

The 30 finalists were selected from a pool of 2471 applications

Commenting in the same statement, WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said the extent of the response to the challenge affirms the enthusiasm among young people to make a difference and contribute to the health-care system on the continent.

“Health innovators have found a new home at WHO, where their innovative ideas will be supported in partnership with our network of stakeholders,” she said.

The top 30 innovations will be showcased on 26 March — on the opening day of the second WHO Africa Health Forum — in Praia, Cape Verde. The other innovations that were submitted for the challenge will also be exhibited on a dynamic virtual marketplace platform that WHO AFRO said is currently under development.

When fully operational, the platform will connect diverse stakeholders — ranging from government officials and health experts to academics, business angels, and investors — to support further development and the scaling up of these ideas.

The top 30 solutions range from rapid molecular tests, mobile health apps to data analytics software. The WHO Africa Innovation Challenge finalists and their solutions are:

Dr Ashifi Gogo (Ghana): Sproxil Defender

Sproxil Defender allows individual consumers to verify the authenticity of medicinal, food and other products for free via text message, a mobile app, call centre or online.

The Sproxil Defender solution has been used over 80-million times by consumers in six countries.

Dr Ime Asangansi (Nigeria): Integrated Supportive Supervision

The Integrated Supportive Supervision (ISS) platform integrates several checklists used by health partners when conducting integrative supportive supervision and makes this data easily accessible.

The web-based tool can be used from a simple mobile device through an application, and enables GPS location, live signature and image capturing and storage, as well as the ability to download data and attachments for analysis and to accept or reject data submissions, as required.

Dr Frida Njogu-Ndongwe (Kenya) Afyakit

The Afyakit platform provides digital supervision tools and analytics for health managers. The Android-based solution uses colour-coded dashboards that highlight problem areas which can then be aggregated at facility and administrative levels.

Afyakit’s tools are modular and scalable and can be used in a wide array of health systems. So far, the platform has been used to improve the quality of health services in Nairobi.

Laud Anthony Basing (Ghana) Rapid Molecular Test for Yaws

The Rapid Molecular Test is a molecular-based point of care test solution for yaws, a disease caused by Treponema pallidum subsp pertenue, a subspecies of the organism that causes syphilis.

The Rapid Molecular Test for Yaws uses a simpler device that can be easily and effectively administered in the field.

Hans-Eddy Gbossa (Benin): Belle Imagerie

Belle Imagerie is a web platform that was launched in 2016 that helps to connect radiological centres, radiologists and patients for the correct interpretation of radiological examinations in real-time.

The solution is an Android and web-based one that has three modules devoted to the users’ — prescribers and patients — pharmacological education.

Gaspard Datondji (Benin): Health Manager – Integrated Medical and Health Information Management System

The Health Manager software is an integrated management solution adapted to the management of health centres, clinics, polyclinics and hospitals.

The solution helps health officials manage medical records and services, patient demographics, billing, and pharmacy stocks.

Dr Misaki Wayengera (Uganda) Pan-Filovirus Rapid Diagnostic Test

The Pan-Filovirus Rapid Diagnostic Test is designed for the early detection of fatal haemorrhagic fevers in remote rural villages.

Twambilile Phanga (Malawi) Youth Friendly Health Service

The Youth Friendly Health Service programme aims to provide medical services from a young person’s perspective and addresses known barriers to care in youth dedicated spaces, separate from adults.

The Youth Friendly Health Service (YFHS) model has proven to be effective — based on a study carried out in 2016 — in increasing uptake and adherence to sexual and reproductive health support and services.

Jacqueline Rogers (South Africa): My Pregnancy Journey

My Pregnancy Journey provides access to critical education and health material to educate, train and inform expecting mothers on any issues they may be experiencing during pregnancy.

The mobile application will include weekly baby size guides, gynaecologist and exercise videos, information of fetus growth and development, body and changes information, labour information, exercise techniques, nutrition tips, father and journal sections, daily articles, and other important information.

A clinic card is also available on the app for users to document their tests and appointments that are needed for a healthy pregnancy and growing baby.

Dr Integrity Mchechesi (Zimbabwe): Afrimom

Afrimom is a text and mobile app that aims to provide users with round-the-clock maternal, sexual and reproductive health support in English and other local languages.

The solution provides access to paid emergency contraception and pre- and post-exposure Antiretroviral therapy medication to all eligible girls and women. In addition, the platform also connects pregnant women to local obstetricians and maternity clinics.

Dr Imodoye Abioro (Nigeria): Project Lend an Arm

Lend an Arm is a health information awareness campaign and youth-focused blood drive. When launched, the solution will provide up-to-date, expert-authored, health information to all users, written in local language. It also aims to connect voluntary blood donors to blood banks and hospitals within a community.

The project is currently working to build up an online community of voluntary blood donors who will form a stable supply chain of blood products for meeting emergency healthcare needs.

Immanuel Hango (Namibia): Chlorine Production Using Solar Energy

Hango’s company Namibia Chemicals has developed a method to produce chlorine — through the electrolysis of salt water — using 100% solar energy as a means to fight cholera in an environmentally friendly manner.

Eunice Kamaara (Kenya): African Character Initiation Programme

The African Character Initiation Programme is a community-based and participatory initiative that aims to provide adolescents with a one-stop source of information on identity and sexual crises, confidence and self-esteem.

The programme has been tested in Kenya, Malawi and Nepal. Over the last 13 years, the programme has directly impacted over 2000 boys and girls through workshops and camps and directly mentored over 1500 individual boys and girls.

Gérard Niyondiko (Burundi): MAÏA

MAÏA is a long-lasting mosquito-repellent ointment which has been developed with the Malaria Research and Training Center in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Ephrem Bekele Woldeyesus (Ethiopia): Integrated Mental Wellness Programme

The Integrated Mental Wellness Programme uses social media to drive social change with an aggregate of more than five million Facebook and YouTube engagements.

The programme includes support offered through a bi-weekly radio show on mental health, depression, forgiveness therapy, reconciliation, trauma and child, as well as women’s psychosocial health.

Franck Verzefé (Cameroon): True-Spec

True-Spec is a portable device that uses artificial intelligence to allow hospitals, pharmacies, pharmaceutical laboratories and quality control centres to verify if certain medication is genuine or fake.

The solution allows the user to save money, as well as allows for the building of a database to help estimate the true impact of sub-standard or falsified medical products.

Morenike Fajemisin (Nigeria): Whispa

Whispa is a mobile app that provides young people with private, even anonymous, access to a variety of sexual and reproductive health information, products and services.

The app can make recommendations for the most suitable contraceptive method by taking into consideration medical and sexual history, while following WHO eligibility guidelines.

Whispa does not only screen users for contraceptive method eligibility, but also ensures usage by utilising mobile phones’ GPS capabilities to refer its users to selected adolescent-friendly health providers within their vicinity.

Geoffrey Andrew (Kenya): Smart Paper Technology (SPT)

The Smart Paper Technology solution allows for mother and child health data to be captured on paper by health workers and then scanned, digitised, and uploaded onto a hospital management system.

SPT delivers all the benefits of electronic health record systems, and enables smooth implementation in clinics and areas without electricity, connectivity and security.

Recording in paper forms means that onerous and potential erroneous administration and reporting routines can be reduced by 72%. Implementation and maintenance is also faster and more affordable compared to any other technology.

Louis Roux (South Africa): Ultra Low-Cost Rapid Diagnostic Test Production

Roux’s company, lIfeassay Diagnostics, has developed a new and innovative process whereby rapid diagnostic tests can be manufactured at a significantly reduced cost without any negative impact on tests’ performance or stability.

Through the incorporation of new materials and manufacturing techniques, raw material savings of up to 45% can be achieved, allowing for more test procurement and healthcare benefit. The plug-and-play manufacturing process allows for rapid scale up of production volumes and can be rolled out in any African country.

Dr Ebinabo Ofrey (Nigeria): GeroCare

GeroCare leverages technology to provide a structure for medical care for the elderly and traditional African family values of adult children taking care of their parents.

The solution also makes it easy for Africans within and outside their home countries to subscribe for regular doctor home visits for their parents. Individuals are able to do register patient details and make payments through the GeroCare application.

Dr Doris Jema Onyeador (Nigeria): Maldor Gift of Sight

The Maldor Gift of Sight programme provides quality eye care and support to patients in low-income settings.

The programme can reach and monitor eyecare in remote communities by scheduling clinic days to meet people where they are in a convenient, time saving and cost saving manner. The solution will also offer low-cost prescription eye glasses, medication and low-vision aids that solve problems such as poor sight and eye diseases.

Denis Oguzu Lee (Uganda): National Ambulance Service

The National Ambulance Service is a mobile, on-demand, hyper-local ambulance, police and fire service call and dispatch emergency system for Android and iOS.

The innovation aggregates various types of private and public emergency services and allows the nearest required service to be dispatched immediately to the patient at the fastest possible time. It enables a registered user to initiate a request for ambulance and specify exact pickup and health facility drop off location of the patient.

The technology also allows those without smart phones to call the emergency call centre and allows those unable to speak to request assistance through SMS.

Wasswa William (Uganda): PapES

PapES has been developed for automated diagnosis and classification of cervical cancer from pap-smear images. The solution is particularly pertinent to resource-constrained areas and could be of significant benefit to developing economies.

The tool also takes into consideration the patient’s cervical cancer risk factors. A cytopathologist analyses the patient’s cervical cancer risk factors and the tool generates a result on the possibility of cervical cancer. Subsequently, the cytopathologist can upload the pap-smear to segment the image using the developed techniques and extract cell features.

The tool can then give the diagnosis and stage of cervical cancer, as per the cervix cell changes from the pap-smear.

Dr Ime Asangansi (Nigeria): Multi-Source Data Analytics and Triangulation Dashboard

The Multi-Source Data Analytics and Triangulation Dashboard combines, links and triangulates multiple data sources in one platform. In this way, data can be checked for completeness as consolidated data provides richer insights.

The dashboard functionality allows for the visualisation of data in the form of charts and maps which can be shared, downloaded and printed. Charts have a target line added to visualise states that have reached the national targets. The solution also allows for multiple indicator and data source comparison using different visualisation types.

Dr Kabamba Alexandre (Angola): TB and HIV Diagnostic Assay

The TB and HIV Diagnostic Assay reduces time and costs associated with the diagnosis of these diseases.

This technology will be complemented by the development of a portable, battery powered and low-cost fluorescence reader medical device for detecting antibodies against antigens at the point of care.

Charles Onu (Nigeria): Ubenwa

Ubenwa is a smartphone app which determines whether or not a new-born is experiencing asphyxia by analysing a recording of their cry.

The smartphone app has been tested to perform at 86% sensitivity and 89% specificity in correctly identifying and diagnosing Perinatal Asphyxia.

Dr Gasana Joel (Rwanda): CompanionApp

The CompanionApp links HIV positive patients and their healthcare providers.

The innovation aims to improve patient follow up and adherence to antiretroviral treatment. CompanionApp also has USSD compatibility for people with limited access to internet.

Dr Charles Immanuel Akhimien (Nigeria): myPaddi

The myPaddi app provides young people with access to accurate, unbiased and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information that ensures complete anonymity.

With the app, young people can connect and chat directly with doctors and counsellors on any sexual and reproductive health issue. Furthermore, the app has an open community where young people can interact together to help and support one another.

Joost Van Engen (Netherlands): Healthy Entrepreneurs

Healthy Entrepreneurs is an innovative local solution that selects and trains community health workers as health entrepreneurs. These community health workers pay a commitment fee and receive a starter kit of basic health products, as well as a solar-powered tablet that is equipped with an ordering app.

Health entrepreneurs can also offer simple diagnostic tests and advice from a doctor from a remote location to their communities in need. The Healthy Entrepreneurs concept has been tested, implemented and fine-tuned in Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Jo Wilmshurst (UK): African Paediatric Fellowship Programme

The African Paediatric Fellowship Programme (APFP) builds clinical paediatric workforce, research and training capacity across sub-Saharan Africa.

The programme works with institutions from 14 countries to identify and equip doctors with the skills, knowledge and expertise needed to optimise patient care, lead on new service developments and build an evidence base for paediatric care in low-resource settings.

Jeniffer Rubli (Canada): The Twende Initiative

The Twende Initiative capitalises on user demand from school based education programmes to make quality, reusable menstrual products available, accessible, and affordable in local markets.

The menstrual cups are bell-shaped receptacles made of medical-grade silicone which will be worn vaginally to collect and not absorb blood.

The menstrual cups can be worn up to 12 hours and last 10 years. They require little water and do not alter vaginal flora. The reusable pads are washable and can last up to two years. The solution will include an appropriate payment schemes which will allow users to afford their product.

Author Bio

Daniel Mpala
Daniel's focus is on the African tech startup ecosytem. Besides that, he is passionate about online security, privacy and international affairs. He studied International Relations and Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. More

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