Africa is filled with innovative solutions, from making life just a little bit easier in rural areas, to actually saving lives in the most dire of situations through science. While Africa is slowly catching up to the technological marvels of Westerns nations, there is definitely no shortage of creative and aspiring minds on the continent. IT News Africa took a look at some of the innovations and inventions that have been developed on home soil.
Kenyan inventor Anthony Mutua has developed a rather ingenuous way of charging mobile phones – using the power of pedestrians. His invention comprises of ultra-thin chips of crystal which are fitted to the bottom of a shoe’s sole. As the user walks, it generates electricity through the pressure exerted when it is stepped on. The chips costs around $46, and charges the phone through an extension cable that runs from the shoe to the pocket. Recently the project has been granted $6,000 for further funding by Kenya’s National Council of Science and Technology, as well as the promise of mass production to reach out to a larger market.
Please call me
Everyday users of mobile phone technology are sometimes blissfully unaware that the Please Call Me service was invented in Africa. The service allows users who have no airtime to send a Please Call Me text message to any number to alert the receiver that they wish to be called back. While there has been some dispute as to who exactly invented the service, the fact remains that it was either created by an employee of Vodacom or MTN in South Africa. Both former Vodacom employee Nkosana Makate and ex-MTN employee Ari Kahn have laid claims to the invention, each with their own proof, but the matter is still being investigated in a South African court.
The Cardiopad, a computer tablet that enables heart examinations like electrocardiograms (ECG) to be conducted at remote, rural locations, was created and developed by Cameroonian entrepreneur Marc Arthur Zang Adzaba. The device is most effective in areas where such crucial diagnostic tests have never been made available. While the device is currently only available in Cameroon, Himore Medical (the company who produces the device), is said to be in the process of marketing the unit in other African markets. According to recent media, “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.”
M-Pesa is a mobile-phone based money transfer and microfinancing service which was created for mobile operators Safaricom and Vodacom, in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively. The ‘M’ stands for mobile, while ‘pesa’ is the Swahili word for money, and is currently the most developed mobile payment system in the world. According to online sources, the service was developed following a student software development project from Kenya in 2007, which was subsequently rolled out by Safaricom. The service is currently in use in Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, South Africa, India and Egypt.
Being widely used in the medical field across the world, few patients know that when they lie down for a computed axial tomography scan, or CAT scan, the technology was actually invented by South African. While it was developed at Tufts University in the UK, the person responsible for the imaging equipment was South African physicist Allan Cormack and Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories. Recognizing their major efforts in the medical field, the pair was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. According to online sources, “Cormack’s interest in the problem of X-ray imaging of soft tissues was first aroused when he took up the part-time position of physicist for a hospital radiology department. In the 1960s, he provided the mathematical technique for the CAT scan, in which an X-ray source and electronic detectors are rotated around the body, producing a sharp map of the tissues within a cross-section of the body.”
* Image via Shutterstock
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor