At the PEI, one of our most important objectives is to shine a light on the great scientific and technological innovations that can achieve great social impact in Africa. In no particular order, here’s a list of five of the most exciting stories about science and tech on the continent that have emerged in the last five months.
1) Ghana sends its first satellite into space
The PEI truly believes that space science and technology can be an important driver of development. Bearing this in mind, we were thrilled to hear that last month Ghana sent its first satellite into orbit. Built by a Ghanaian engineering team at All Nations University, the cubesat was delivered to NASA’s international space station on a SpaceX rocket that took off from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The satellite will be used to conduct detailed monitoring of Ghana’s coastlines, and enhance STEM education by integrating satellite technology into secondary curriculums. We look forward to learning more about the impact the satellite achieves!
2) A new AIDS vaccine enters trials in South Africa
At the end of this year, a new AIDs vaccine will begin large-scale trials in South Africa. Developed by Johnson & Johnson with the US National Institutes of Health, the experimental “Ad 26 mosaic” vaccine is based on mosaic technology, which combines immune-stimulating proteins from four different HIV strains, which represent different sorts of virus from around the world. In this way, the technology prompts the body to respond with several kinds of defences that aim to enable it to ward off many of HIV’s variations. Considering that Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for nearly 1 in 25 adults (4.2%) living with HIV, the success of this vaccine could have important, positive ramifications for health systems across the continent.
3) Ivorian research projects studies chimpanzee food as a way to treat diseases including cancer
In West African jungles, wild chimpanzees eat native plants such as kroma and badi to treat ailments from worm infestation to bacterial infection. Given that humans share 98% of their DNA with chimpanzees, Ivorian botanist, Constant Ahoua, reasons that these treatments could work on humans as well. In this way, he is leading a research project that screens jungle plants for possible human treatment. So far it has identified compounds that can kill bacterial and yeast infections in a petri dish, and six compounds that inhibit cancer-triggering enzymes. We hope to hear more about this amazing, novel story!
4) Senegal start-up trains young coders
Senegal is making impressive investments in science, technology and innovation. However, local start-ups have struggled with the dearth of qualified web and app developers. This state of affairs prompted Abdoul Khadre Diallo to create Volkeno, a social enterprise that provides students with a one-month training programme in web development, graphic design or digital marketing. When classes finish, students spend two months interning with a local company. A truly worthwhile, impactful initiative!
5) First African baby born using rare, low-cost IVF technique
A rare type of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) called The Walking Egg (TWE) technology has been used to create a baby in Ghana. This revolutionary technology, which costs less than one-third of a conventional IVF treatment, was developed in 2014 to help couples with fertility issues in developing countries where resources are unavailable. What’s more, Ghana has become the secondary country in the world to create a baby successfully using this technology.