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Young Africans Respond to COVID-19 Through Their Innovations

March 31, 2020

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes were on Africa, with many forecasting and anticipating unimaginable casualties for the continent. One year later Africa, the second largest continent in the world, with its less than sophisticated health system has maintained and is recording the lowest number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities in the world. Africans did not take it lightly, all hands remain on deck in proffering possible redemptive measures, on a small scale and using indigenous resources. The fascinating thing about the measures is that many young Africans in their respective nations and immediate communities and families led the efforts of inventing and adopting approaches to address the pandemic. Even though these disruptive innovations were not given global applause, they keep the African people safe.

Youth driven innovations have spanned from all corners of the African continent to address issues such as awareness, reaching out to the disabled and needy, using robotics for disinfecting, diagnosing, and policing, safe and fast testing and contact tracing, less expensive and easy-to-handle medical oxygen, respirators, and many others equipments that have been outlined by the African Regional Bureau of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its publication Africa innovates. Organisations like Asante Africa Foundation, whose young alumni, beneficiaries, and members continue to engage in numerous innovations and palliative measures to address the effects of the pandemic, are creating agents of change. As everyone continues to navigate this new world, let us look at some entrepreneurial innovations undertaken by youth and alumni.

Grace (right), Asante Africa alumni distributing essentials to the needy

With support from Asante Africa Foundation, Grace and her colleagues from Marsabit County, Kenya used their savings to buy essential foods like maize flour, tea leaves, rice, and sugar, as well as protective gears like masks and sanitizers. Her team of colleagues then distributed the supplies to the needy in the community. Isaac, a form three student from Lokichar town, Kenya has been making masks and reusable sanitary napkins for the women in his community

Asante Africa staff creating awareness on COVID-19 with native languages

Recognising the impact of accurate information, Asante Africa field staff and youth in rural East Africa are using their native languages in educating and empowering their communities with accurate information regarding the virus. Some of these efforts include organizing educational campaigns to spread awareness on how COVID-19 can be transmitted, its symptoms, and preventative measures. 

Vivian and her fellow Asante Africa alumni in Kenya have been volunteering with the Kenya Red Cross. Her team visited marketplaces, health facilities, and homes to inform people on the measures to curb the spread of the virus. They have also reached out to those affected by hunger and floods.

Asante Africa youth washing hands

Asante Africa alumni educating and distributing COVID-19 related resources in East African communities.

Across East Africa Solomon Lemalasia, Asante Africa Foundation’s alumni and the Organizing Secretary of Samburu East University Students Association (SEUSA), has been working with community officials and fellow students to provide hundreds of Kenyan communities with education and resources concerning COVID-19 transmission, symptoms, and preventative measures. Emmanuel, of the RCEA Kapese Mixed Secondary School, has led a discussion on sanitization techniques and social distancing in the Lockichar settlement. In Manyatta, Geoffrey Lemalasia has been educating his community about the global impact of COVID-19, handwashing, social distancing, and the need to minimize traveling. Charles from Samburu has been teaching handwashing skills to families and has been working with his family to spread this information across the rural communities. He also developed a handwashing station at the gate of his village as a proactive measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

sewing masks kenya

To assist in keeping the school open, the students and Asante Africa alumni in Orkolili Secondary School are producing thousands of face masks for students to use while attending school. They are giving five masks per student and distributing them in their local communities in Tanzania. In the Rombo district of Tanzania Deodath and Prisilla, both current Asante Africa students, are making soaps and increasing awareness in their communities on the significance of staying clean and handwashing.

It is clear from the innovations by Asante Africa youth enumerated here and many other unlisted efforts that most of the preventive measures that Africans are using to keep the pandemic under control are local and indigenous. Other stories from around Africa include Mahmoud el-Komy, a 26-year old mechatronic engineer in Egypt, who designed and invented a robot that is able to work with incredible precision to diagnose infection and post-infection medical care related to COVID-19. Stephen Wamukota, a 9-year-old schoolboy in Kenya, invented the semi-automatic foot-operated hand washing machine, and Franc Kamugyisha, a 27-year old in Uganda, developed reusable face masks that are now used in and outside of the African continent. More recently Yusuf Bilesanmi, a young Nigerian, has been shortlisted for the 2021 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Bilesanmi is being recognized for creating a simple, low-cost water-powered, non-electric and non-invasive ventilator for COVID-19 patients, which can be operated by non-specialist healthcare workers in remote areas of Africa. 

These innovations reflect that Africa is indeed great and the African people, especially young people, are more than capable of handling the challenges that the continent is facing amid this global pandemic. 

In other words Africans do not need to wait for dreadful situations such as pandemics and epidemics to bring out the best in us, Africa is continuous and consistent in its innovative efforts. Becoming more effective at doing so will involve more intercommunity and intercontinental collaboration and synergy among young people to further make African innovations take their proper place in the world. That is why Asante Africa has remained an outstanding organization, whose diverse developmental programs are impacting and serving Africa’s young population and helping to bring out the best in us.

Written By: Innocent Umezuruike Iroaganachi