It’s December, I hope the year has been a good one for you. Today’s letter is a little longer than usual but I promise that it’s worth it.
There’s been extensive research on healthcare product design on the continent, many of which have highlighted the absence of local context in technology designed overseas. This is not to say there aren’t companies operating abroad designing great technology for the continent, like Sisu Global or Ligand Innovation.
For a continent where only three countries have at least 1 doctor per 1000 people, producing medical devices might be far off especially with the regulations involved. The first step to treatment is diagnosis, and where (it has reported that) 80% of people treated for malaria are prescribed medication without a laboratory test, diagnostic devices should be the first to be developed.
In this newsletter, I look for some of the interesting ones.
Things I Enjoyed Reading
Pneumonia is a pretty serious, it’s responsible for more deaths of children under 15 than AIDS and malaria combined. In Uganda, two engineers are developing a ‘smart’ jacket to diagnose the disease, using the same technology as a stethoscope but over a larger area. The readings are collected and analyzed on a mobile app, then sent to a doctor to give a final diagnosis.
‘37% of women aged 18-24 years feel uncomfortable talking to their doctors about intimate health issues, especially if they are male’, reports HerHealth. The company is developing BVKit, a self-diagnostic to enable women monitor their reproductive health at home; their goal is to be able to test for various ailments starting with bacterial vaginosis.
In Benin, KEA is developing tech to store and transfer medical information that can be accessed in emergencies. Using a bracelet worn on the arm or patch that can be attached onto other articles, the medical records can be accessed whenever necessary. While the devices are cheap (at $4 and $2 respectively), their key tech is ensuring that the records are secure.
There’s an interesting movement happening in Francophone West Africa, the Réseau Francophone des FabLabs d’Afrique de l’Ouest is the network of fablabs in the region. While the network was formally set up at their conference in Cotonou last month, they have been building a collection of open source healthtech available to the community for a while. Their designs: a bionic hand, a sonar glove, and a wheelchair were on display at FAB14.
Using indigenous gin-distilling methods to refine crude oil in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
Making a rotary tool into a CNC.
A potential alternative to molding found in the intestines of a wombat.
Could we power a plane with no moving parts?
Things to Apply For
If you’re working on a solution to improve health outcomes, you should apply in the WHO Africa Innovation Challenge.
The Johnson & Johnson Africa Innovation Challenge welcomes new solutions in six areas including packaging innovations that minimize waste and solutions to improve essential medical care. Check it out if you’re working in those spaces.
Founded by three graduates of Makerere University, BreastIT is developing breast cancer screening technology using ultrasound. Their technology takes the form of a fitted glove (inspired by scanners at Ugandan supermarkets) and an app that captures the wave reading and sends the image to a radiologist. They are deep in research and testing, and are exploring the inclusion of medical history as part of their diagnostic.
Tweet of the Month
Chris Anderson would know.
“The first rule of Hardware Club is knowing you’re really in Software Club.” @chr1sa #HardwareClubSummit
It’s been a good year and the newsletter has grown to just less than 450 subscribers. In thinking about new directions for the newsletter, I would like to have your feedback. What have you enjoyed or disliked about the monthly letter? Do reply and let me know.
For the next year, I hope to have more guest writers from across the continent write the newsletter. I would like to offer a stipend as thank you and for that I require a purse. To do this, I have set up a Patreon account for the newsletter and I invite you to please contribute.
All patrons (as supporters on Patreon are called) will receive an additional newsletter on the 15th of every month; it will be an in-depth profile of one African hardware company developing interest tech. In January, to start the new series, the letter will profile the founder and technology behind eNose, a sensor that improves the post-processing of tea in East Africa.
Patrons who support in the second category, as well as receiving the second newsletter, will have the chance to add job opportunities or a sponsored post to the newsletter.
Have a great rest of the year and eku odun,