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Mobile can boost health

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In order to achieve a greater economic growth, it is important that technology and innovative health solutions be implemented across the African continent.

Healthcare is a massive challenge in Africa. The continent is home to 15% of the world’s population and 24% of global disease burden, and yet has only 3% of the world’s healthcare workforce at its disposal. Demands on the healthcare systems are also increasing as non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, are on the rise. Healthcare providers across the continent will therefore need to prioritise early detection and treatment. As such, the continent is reliant on the public and private sectors to work together to develop solutions to tackle healthcare delivery challenges.

According to the World Bank, 50% of economic growth differential between developing and developed nations can be attributed to poor health. The healthier the citizens of a country, the more effective the workforce and the greater the potential for economic growth. To achieve this and leapfrog the global healthcare systems it is critical that technology and innovative solutions be implemented across the continent.

“We have developed a range of healthcare solutions using mobile technology specifically to bridge the gap,” says Vuyani Jarana Chief Officer at Vodacom Business. “These solutions are up and running in locations across Africa and will help  overcome healthcare challenges facing the continent.”

A shortage of doctors and nurses is one challenge. As such, the continent relies heavily on Community Health Workers (CHWs) to provide healthcare services at people’s homes. One of the biggest challenges facing the CHWs has been correctly capturing patient information to create and file accurate records.

“We have developed a mobile application that runs on an Android smartphone. This allows CHWs to capture patient information, making service records more accurate and easily accessible,” says Jarana. This mobile application which is currently in use in Kenya and South Africa, has increased the quality and productivity of CHW programmes significantly, leading to better healthcare service delivery to citizens.

A similar solution has been rolled out in Mozambique to increase the efficacy of immunisation programmes. Caregivers and children are registered by a nurse using a mobile application. They then receive an SMS reminder when they are due to go back to the clinic for an immunisation visit. Should a child fall behind on their immunisation schedule, the system flags the case allowing the clinics to intervene and ensure the child receives all scheduled vaccinations.

The supply and effective stock keeping of essential medicines is another challenge facing the continent. “We have implemented a stock visibility solution in more than 5 000 primary health care clinics in Tanzania and more than 1 200 clinics in South Africa,” says Jarana.

A mobile phone, running a native application linked to a specific primary health care facility, is issued to each clinic. A weekly SMS is sent to remind the clinic management to submit an update on stock levels, expiry dates, wastage and stock received. The information is uploaded via the GSM network into a Vodacom data centre, allowing the system to flag low stock levels and stock-outages and inform management to supply the stock needed. The system not only tracks information about quantity and location, but also urgency. This informs the supply chain to deliver the correct quantities of essential medicines to the right facilities on time.

Jarana believes that technology will be a key driver in helping the continent to overcome some of its healthcare challenges. “Mobile technology can address some of the biggest healthcare challenges in Africa. Our job is to continue to develop relevant and innovative solutions that will meet the continent’s growing need for quality healthcare services,” he concludes.

Africa News

Mastercard names 9 Africa projects for $9-million fund

The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (FRP) has announced that nine companies from seven countries will receive more than US$9 million to support projects that expand financial inclusion in rural Africa.

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The nine companies were selected from more than 300 firms competing in the first two phases of the Fund’s 2017/2018 rolling competition, which launched in June 2017 and closed in January 2018.

The 2017/2018 rolling competition was one of the Fund’s largest in its efforts to find and support providers of innovative and scalable financial products and services that improve the lives of poor people living in rural areas of Africa. Financing for another group of companies, assessed as part of the third and fourth phases of the competition, will be announced in 2019.

The latest round of financial support will extend innovative transactions, green energy, asset finance, mobile banking, agency banking, and distribution/logistics solutions to excluded rural populations in the seven countries.

Phase #1 selected companies are:

  • Equity Bank Congo SA
  • FutureLink Technologies Limited
  • Apollo Agriculture Limited
  • SolarNow Services Limited
  • Easy Solar Limited
  • Dodore Kenya Limited

Phase #2 selected companies are:

  • Farmerline Limited
  • Stewards Globe Limited
  • Microcred Limited

The nature and geographical diversity of the new projects saw the Fund expand its presence to four additional Sub-Saharan countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity portfolio now includes 30 projects in 11 countries in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia). The projects comprise a range of businesses from traditional banks and solar-energy leasing companies to agricultural off-taker firms.

“We are excited to add nine more companies to our growing portfolio that is having a positive impact on the lives of millions of people across Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Wambui Chege, Team Leader of the Fund for Rural Prosperity. “Today’s announcement reinforces our belief that there is a wide range of innovative, Africa-led projects that, with a little support, can drive financial inclusion across the continent.”

Lindsay Wallace, Director of Strategy and Learning at the Mastercard Foundation, said: “The aim of the FRP has always been to enable smallholder farmers and poor people living in rural Africa to reach their full potential by supporting new private sector initiatives that provide access to financial services. We’re very happy to see this latest round of selected firms, demonstrating the depth and breadth of ideas and action plans that will do just that.”

Continue reading about the companies on the next page.

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Africa News

IoT’s answer for Africa

IoT and digitization enables us to efficiently, proactively and predictively address the sustainability challenges that are faced globally and on the African continent, RESHAAD SHA, CEO of Liquid Telecom.

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With Africa’s population set to increase from around 1.3-billion in 2018 to 1.7-billion in 2030, both challenges and opportunities are presented with regards managing issues including food production and security pose  as well the utilization of limited natural resources in a sustainable manner.

Water scarcity and quality for example are realities that negatively impact health, food production and security. Population growth rates and climatic changes place an exponential demand on this scarce and dwindling resource. These are just some of the sustainability challenges facing not just the African continent, but other developing nations and the world as a whole. In addition to this, the demand for the delivery of basic services as healthcare and sanitation also increases.

Against this background of African population growth lies the grim projection that Africa will account for more than 50% of child deaths (under 5) by 2030, while each day, nearly 1000 children die owing to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases according to the UNICEF 2017 trends in child mortality report. It’s an alarming fact, given that while some 2.6-billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, 663-million people still do not have access.

The department of Water Affairs and Forestry estimate that the agricultural sector accounts for more than 50% of water use in South Africa and experience water losses of between 30 and 40 per cent. Further, the department states that around 35% of irrigation system losses, often nutrient enriched and containing herbicides, pesticides, and other pollutants, return to rivers. These are just some of the ways in which reactive, inefficient, and manually driven processes have limited us in responding in an impactful manner and timeously mitigating these risks

It is for these reasons and other socio economic and environmental concerns that the United Nations has established its Sustainable Development Goals strategy, addressing the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, and environmental degradation.

We need to look at smarter ways that leverage technology in order to addressing these challenges. The situation requires a radical response that delivers a proactive, predictive and data driven approach to addressing these issues with exponentially growing levels of speed and impact.

The IoT ecosystem, comprising of sensors, connectivity, data analytics and workflow automation platforms, and applications are at the core of acquiring, analyzing and harnessing the insights that can be integrated into agriculture, service delivery, health and resource management processer – IoT is at the core of a digitization

One such sector which has benefited immensely from technology is in agriculture pest control, with the implementation of AI and IoT by Spanish startup AgroPestAlert. The innovation makes use of “smart” traps that capture insects and analyse their wing beats to identify their species and even their sex. Placed throughout the fields, the traps communicate with the system to predict an imminent invasion. The system will send alerts to phones, tablets and computers and use an easy-to-understand visual tool to cue farmers instantly.

Around 200-million Africans use approximately 1-million manual pumps across the continent to manually access clean drinking water.  IoT applications have been utilised in assuring the delivery of water through manual these pumps, According to estimates, at least one-third of those pumps will break down at least once in its lifecycle, and up to 70% will break in the second year of operation. The impact of not having access to clean drinking water is dehydration or water borne pandemics.

In the Kenyan Region of Kyusoa, Oxford University began a proof of concept project in 2013, which made use of motion sensors) to capture the movements of the pumps’ handle which was transmitted and analysed in real time. A decision support system based on real data was  used to predict pump malfunctions, allowing for a better planning and shortening the time needed to repair broken pumps, or avoiding malfunctions altogether, directly improving the access to clean drinking water for the rural population.

Liquid Telecom realise that the future of sustainability lies in technology and innovations such as IoT. We provide high speed fiber connectivity to interconnect as well as access platforms to build IoT solutions, in addition to access to Microsoft Azure suite of platforms for analytics and algorithm driven based processing and execution. Our Pan African network enables collaboration and cross border innovation and learning, fast well as the capability to efficiently scale out these solutions on Africa’s Liquid Cloud.

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