CAPE TOWN – The coronavirus pandemic has spurred health technology innovation in Africa, says a World Health Organization (WHO) study.
According to the study, Africa accounts for 12.8% of the innovations that have been developed worldwide to target different areas of the Covid-19 response.The response areas include surveillance, contact tracing, community engagement, treatment, laboratory systems and infection, prevention and control.
In Africa, 57.8% of the technologies were ICT-driven, 25% were based on 3D printing and 10.9% were robotics.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti says although Covid-19 is one of the most serious health challenges in a generation, it is also an opportunity to drive forward innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurship in life-saving health technologies.
“It’s great to see the youthful energy of the continent fired up to fight Covid-19. Solar-powered automatic hand-washing tools, mobile applications that build on Africa’s rapidly growing connectivity. These home-grown innovations are uniquely adapted to the African context,” she said.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation the more developed an economy is the more it innovates and vice versa, but some economies break this pattern by performing better or worse than predicted.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the largest number of economies performing above expectations for their level of development. While this is encouraging, investment is vital to further spark innovation on the continent.
The ICT-based innovations include WhatsApp Chatbots in South Africa, self-diagnostic tools in Angola, contact tracing apps in Ghana and mobile health information tools in Nigeria.
The countries with the most innovations were South Africa (13%), Kenya (10%), Nigeria (8%) and Rwanda (6%).Earlier this year, all 47 African Member-States in the WHO African Region adopted a WHO strategy for scaling up health innovations in Africa.
By 2023, 80% of all Member States agreed to perform needs assessments to identify critical gaps in their health systems and will have established coordination mechanisms to scale up innovations.
Seventy-five percent will have developed policies and incentive frameworks, and half will have developed analytical tools to assess the economic and social impact of innovations.
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