Made in Africa: Seven Sensational Inventions
When it comes to innovation, its abundance in Africa may surprise. From recycled 3D printing machines to apps which facilitate communications between the eleven official South African languages, they have thought of it all. Below are 7 African innovations that are causing sensation.
If 3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing, then Togo's Afate Kodjo Gnikou has proven that innovative technology does not have to come from lavishly funded research labs. His "printer for the poor" is made using discarded electronic waste, which would otherwise go into dump sites in wealthy countries. Afate's 3D printer is inexpensive enough that it can be set up in a slum and used to print urgently needed replacement parts on the spot.
This Wi-Fi hotspot for developing countries was developed in Kenya's capital city of Nairobi. It uses a normal SIM card and backup battery to supply reliable and low-cost internet access to up to 20 devices (as long as a cellular network is available). In addition to the base model, the Brck is also available as a preconfigured microserver for disaster response teams.
Arthur Zang, an engineering student from Cameroon, was only 24 when he developed the Cardio Pad in 2012. His inexpensive and robust tablet computer heart monitor allows nurses to take EKGs of patients in even the most remote village, and to consult with experts by using the mobile phone network. A cardiologist downloads the data and sends a diagnosis and treatment back to the nurse. The Cardio Pad has received numerous international awards and interest from investors, and it is now being field-tested at a hospital in Cameroon.
Slums in many developing countries often lack clean and safe sanitary facilities. The Kenyan company Sanergy addresses this problem with a complete solution. Sanergy installs its bright blue Fresh Life Toilets on site and franchises upkeep and operations to individual micro-entrepreneurs. The waste is collected daily and taken to be processed into fertilizer at central collection points. The project both improves public health and creates hundreds of new jobs.
How do you communicate in a country like South Africa, where there are eleven official languages? The answer is Aweza, an app for mobile devices that bridges a simple but important cultural gap in everyday communications. The program provides instant translations of individual words and complete sentences at the push of a button. Aweza utilizes user feedback to ensure the quality of its audio clips.
Okada Ride is the bestselling game by Maliyo Games, one of the most successful computer game workshops in Nigeria. The African answer to Angry Birds revolves around a wild chase on okadas, the speedy motorcycle taxis that are a vital part of the metropolis Lagos. Maliyo is one of several successful gaming companies bringing entertainment to everyday African life.
Fonio, a nutritious West African cereal, usually requires hours of hard work to separate the small grains from the plant. Sanoussi Diakité, a Senegalese engineer, developed a machine that marks a big step forward for the grain and for nutrition. The husking machine can process five kilos of fonio in only eight minutes and runs on gasoline or electricity. Diakité has received several awards for his invention, including the Rolex Award.