African technology innovations are not mere gadgets. They are life enhancing tools that contribute to a more productive economy and improvements in quality of African people. African entrepreneurs who are leading the charge in the technological revolution are also creating jobs and new income streams.
Here are just six examples of quality, life changing innovations from among the scores of African technology innovations that have been introduced in the past couple of years. They come from the important economic segments of finance, healthcare, and agriculture.
Pesa Pata by Paddy Micro Investment
Pesa Pata means “get money” in Swahili. Joyce Wangui, head of Paddy Micro oversees this big, mobile money application out of Kenya. In a recent visit to Kenya, I sign billboards and placards on shops advertising the availability of this micro-loan facility.
Here is how it works. A vender, normally a small shop or kiosk owner, gives a trusted client a scratch card worth between Ksh 250 ($3 USD) and Ksh 5,000 ($63). The client scratches the card to reveal a secrete number that they then load onto their mobile phone and are credited a short-term loan in their Safaricom M-Pesa account. They must repay the loan principle, plus a five to ten percent interest, in less than thirty days. The kiosk owner derives income from the interest.
Such short term loans, procured in a matter of minutes, was impossible in the past. With these short term loans borrowers buy new inventory for their roadside stand, purchase produce for resale, or pay for a prescription at the chemist – opening a whole new realm of possibilities for improving life.
The healthcare sector is getting more attention by innovative entrepreneurs. Here are three of the most interesting African technology innovations in that space.
Teleradiology by Medisoft East Africa Ltd
Dr. Emmanuel Mukoya, Dr. Ndii Kanake and Ruth Wangari are the brains behind Medisoft’s Teleradiology, a set of technologies that allow radiologists to remotely read medical images. In many parts of Africa, when an x-ray or other medical image has been taken there is no guarantee that the image will be looked at by a technician or physician who is qualified to correctly read it and make a diagnosis.
Teleradiology erases the boundaries between image acquisition, reporting and referring doctors. It speeds up the process of getting the images before the knowledgeable eyes of licensed radiologists, who live and work in the major cities of Africa. The technicians can then provide reports and consultation services for many doctors and hospitals in rural areas or small towns. The remote doctors can then read these reports that are forwarded to their computers in their clinical office or homes.
This application gives medical imaging centers and hospitals all over the continent the freedom to outsource interpretation services to offsite radiologists around the clock, with ease. Patients’ lives have been saved by Teleradiology by truncating the time from scan to diagnosis.
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MedAfrica by Shimba Technologies
MedAfrica is a vast, virtual library of medical information available on a smart phone. One data set allows hospitals and clinics, even patients for that matter, to validate a doctors credentials. Patients or rural clinicians can employ another data set to locate hospitals or physicians who provide care for specific ailments. Doctors and other practitioners can list symptoms they have observed and a menu of possible diagnoses will be returned on the smart phone screen.
MedAfrica also contains collections of diet and drug related material. Shimba Technologies is adding data sets regularly.
Cardiopad by Himore Medical
Marc Arthur Zang Adzaba is the Cameroonian entrepreneur who invented Cardiopad, a computer tablet that enables heart examinations like electrocardiograms (ECG) to be conducted at remote, rural locations that have never before been able to offer such crucial diagnostic tests.
CardioPad utilizes electrodes, fitted with bluetooth, that are placed on the patient’s chest sending a signal to the touch screen tablet that can then wirelessly transfers the readings to one of the few cardiologists who is normally located in the capital city. The heart specialist then interprets the ECG and renders a diagnosis and forwards it to the nurse or examining physician who saw the patient.
Cardiopad is presently only available in Cameroon, but Himore Medical will soon market it in other African countries. With less than a score of cardiologists in many African countries, this innovation will allow many heart patients to receive a prompt diagnosis that was a luxury that they could not receive, at any price, if they were unable to travel to an urban center.
Agriculture is the largest and most important sector of the economy in the majority of African countries. Yet, African technology innovation in this sector remains wide open. Here are just two innovations that are assisting product producers and marketers in Kenya.
AgriManagr by Virtual City Group
John Waibochi, CEO and founder of Kenya’s Virtual City Group, developed AgriManagr a mobile app and associated programs that assist farmers and middlemen by automating produce purchasing transactions.
AgriManagr facilitates the weighing, grading and receipting of produce gathered from farmers at rural or urban collection centers throughout the country. The app goes beyond mere record keeping to allowing purchasing agents to pay the farmers via cashless transactions through M-Pesa accounts on their phones. The app is complete with the ability to automatically reward frequent and favored suppliers with bonuses and premium services.
Produce purchasing agents who combine AgriManagr with an electronic weighing scale can send the weight information directly to the AgriManagr app via Bluetooth technology. A complete report of the transaction, including quantity, quality of the produce, the farmer’s details, collection point, and the payment due, is sent to the purchasing agent’s headquarters which can then make payment.
Having real-time information about purchases in the field gives the headquarters an accurate understanding of how much total produce, by type, they will have available to supply to their retailers in the next day or two.
Kilimo Salama is n example of the marriage of two essential components of modern development in Africa – technology and partnership. This African technology innovation is a crop insurance scheme put together by UAP Insurance Company of Kenya, Safaricom Ltd. (a telecommunications company), and two crop input providers (MEA Fertilizers and seed company Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture). It scheme currently covers farmers who grow maize, wheat, beans, sorghum and potatoes.
Here is how the Kilimo Salama pay-as-you-plant system works. A shop owner is supplied a cell phone. When a farmer buys seed or fertilizer and wishes to purchase insurance, the shop owner scans the bar code on the products, collects an additional 5 percent of the retail purchase. The seed and/or fertilizer company chips in another 5 percent. The combined payment is sent to the insurance company via the phone.
Farmers do not have to file individual claims. The weather situation is monitored by 40 small weather stations that Kilimo Salama has installed throughout the country where the insurance is currently being offered. If the rains fail, or are too great, payments are automatically made to accounts that the farmers have installed on their cell phones.
In June 2012, Kilimo Salama won the Financial Times/IFC award for Technology in Sustainable Finance.
These are just a few of the many African technology innovations that are already enhancing the lives of people on the continent. Others are being developed while you read this post. Some of the innovations still in the development stage or ready to expand are in need of investors and expert partners. Africa Mentor can assist parties who are interested in participating and profiting from the technology boom that is rapidly growing on the continent.