Pandemic spurs innovation in Africa: UNDP report

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

Despite making millions sick and its terrible death toll, the COVID-19 pandemic has also presented opportunities for innovation, says a new report by the African Union and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

“Throughout the course of the pandemic, Africa has seen an increase in innovative solutions, including virus-testing robots, contact-tracing apps, non-invasive testing kits, foot-operated hand-washing stations, oxygen machines, drone medicine delivery service, genome sequencing, AI-powered healthcare chatbots and much more,” said the report, released late Tuesday.

The report titled Through the Pandemic and Beyond is a work of the African Union Commission, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the UNDP.

“These are among the 50 life-changing innovations from across the continent — and by inventors as young as age 9 — that were spotlighted by the UNDP in its inaugural edition of Africa Innovates magazine,” the report said.

It said: “Many of these and other innovations were made by micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises [MSMEs]. The economic impact of the pandemic has been especially hard on such enterprises, many of which face potential closure or bankruptcy. As MSMEs account for 90% of all businesses on the continent and 85.8% of all jobs in the informal sector, closures could lead to massive job losses and drops in consumer spending.”

“Throughout Africa, people are looking inward for the innovations that will move the continent forward. We’re looking ahead, to anticipate the needs of the next generations and envision a better future. And we’re looking to each other, to build the communities, the countries and the continent that we all know are possible,” the report quoted Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, deputy director of the Africa CDC, as saying.

The African Union was one of the first regional institutions to adopt a joint continental strategy for the outbreak. Under the strategy, and in consonance with the UNDP’s corporate offer to help countries prepare for, respond to, and recover from COVID-19, the Regional Bureau for Africa established a strong partnership with the Africa CDC, the report said.​​​​​​​

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