• There is nothing as encouraging as solutions designed to help Africa handle development challenges effectively and efficiently; it is more heartening when such solutions are developed and implemented by young Africans in pursuit of Africa’s growth agenda.

    African Innovation Foundation (AIF), whose main objective is to increase the prosperity of Africans by catalyzing the innovation spirit in Africa, does so through the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). IPA works with the sole purpose of strengthening African innovation ecosystems and spurring the growth of market-driven African solutions to African challenges.

    For the past five years, IPA has been organizing competition targeting technological breakthroughs in 5 main areas: manufacturing & service industry, health & well-being, agriculture & agribusiness, environment, energy & water and ICTs.

    As has been witnessed since 2011, AIF has unveiled this year’s winners of the coveted IPA award marking their 5th anniversary. Themed “Made in Africa,” the competition attracted participants from Across Africa, with 985 successful submissions from 46 African countries. In general, this year’s award attracted innovators with impressive inventions ranging from new breakthroughs in malaria and other public health burdens, smart solutions for farmers and dynamic energy initiatives.

    Out of the top ten nominees, three of them Dr Valentin Agon of Benin, Imogen Wright of South Africa, and Nigeria’s Dr Eddy Agbo were crowned winners at the auspicious award ceremony in Gaborone, Botswana, last Thursday (June 23,2016).

    The three reformers have created three different solutions for malaria and HIV/AIDS, which are the major challenges hindering development in the continent. A sum of $150,000 was awarded to the three creatives.

    Solutions for Malaria and other public health burdens

    Dr Eddy Agbo’s Urine Test for Malaria, Nigeria

    Dr Eddy Agbo’s Urine Test for Malaria (UMT), grabbed the special prize in the competition. UMT, a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device can diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes. Being the continent that has the highest number of malaria cases worldwide; and more often than not, people take anti-malaria medication when fever is detected, UMT could be the answer to the malaria menace.

    UMT has the ability to quickly diagnose and commence malaria treatment, thus controlling some of the complications associated with the disease including kidney failure, the build-up of lung fluid, aplastic anemia, and even death. UMT uses a dip-stick with accurate results in just 25 minutes. The technology detects malaria parasite proteins in the patient’s urine with fever due to malaria. The UMT is simple and affordable, and a potential game changer in managing malaria across Africa.

    Api-Palu: Dr Valentin Agon, Benin

    Api-Palu is an anti-malaria drug treatment developed out of natural plant extract by Dr Valentin Agon. Due to its therapeutic and non-toxic effects, the drug has been approved in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and the Central Africa Republic. Api-Palu has great inhibitory effects on 3D7 strains of plasmodium falciparum the causative agent of malaria. The drug manifests as a fast rate of malaria parasite clearance from the blood following short-term treatment, with relatively lower doses. It is available in tablets, capsules or syrup.

    Exatype: Dr Imogen Wright, South Africa

    While Agbo and Agon concentrated on malaria solutions, Dr Imogen Wright from South Africa, developed a software, Exatype, a solution that enables healthcare workers to determine HIV-positive patients’ responsiveness to ARV drug treatment. Many governments across Africa have ensured access to treatment for all. However, a growing number of people on ARVs are resistant to drug regimens, leading to failure of the therapy, exacerbating the continent’s HIV/AIDS burden. Exatype processes the highly complex data produced by advanced “next-generation” DNA sequencing of the HIV DNA in a patient’s blood.

    Through a simple report, it detects drugs that are resistant to the patient, then highlights the need to avoid these to ensure successful treatment. Exatype has the potential to contribute towards effectively managing HIV/AIDS in Africa, and also holds promise in helping detect drug resistance for other disease burdens such as Tuberculosis and malaria.

    With innovations directed at Africa’s worst challenges such as diseases, the continent could be on track in solving the development puzzle that still exists.