Johnson & Johnson announces science Africa innovation winners at WEF in Cape Town. IMAGE: Johnson & Johnson logo

CAPE TOWN – Johnson & Johnson on Thursday announced the winners of the champions of science Africa innovation challenge 2.0 at the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) in Cape Town. 

The six winning businesses and programmes offer bold, entrepreneurial approaches to tackling major healthcare priorities in African communities, including blood delivery, healthcare worker burnout, hearing loss, jaundice, malaria and ultrasound access.

A total amount of $300 000 (more than R4 million) will be awarded to the winning teams, along with extensive mentoring and connection network building, to support the expansion and sustainability of the companies and programmes. 

“The innovation ecosystem in Africa is thriving, and the ideas and energy of its entrepreneurs and innovators have the potential to create transformational change for people across the continent and around the world," said Paul Stoffels, managing director, chief scientific officer and vice chairman of the executive committee at Johnson & Johnson.

"The six winners of the Africa innovation challenge 2.0 are addressing major healthcare challenges with novel technology and approaches. We look forward to collaborating with and investing in them as they work to create sustainable businesses and programmes that offer strong benefits to patients, families, healthcare workers and communities in markets across Africa and beyond,” added Stoffels.

The challenge received nearly 900 submissions from 39 countries, and the winning businesses and programmes represent outstanding ingenuity and perseverance, as well as a pathway for scaling operations for long-term sustainability. 

“The World Economic Forum is excited to partner in announcing the winners of the Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 at this year’s congress, which is focused on innovation, cooperation, growth and stability, critical areas that the challenge embodies,” said Elsie Kanza, head of Africa at the World Economic Forum. 

“Each of the six winners brings a passion for innovation, a bold sense of purpose and a commitment to the future of their communities and the larger continent. By participation in our meeting, we hope that they will be able to gain knowledge, ideas and connections to help them take their business to the next level as well as inspire leaders to encourage and support future generations of innovators,” added Kanza.

“The winners of the first Africa Innovation Challenge have made significant advancements with their businesses, including hiring more workers, accelerating production and securing important patents and trademarks, all part of the ambitions and goals of the Challenge,” said Seema Kumar, vice president, innovation, global public health and science policy communication, Johnson & Johnson.

The winners were:

  • Blood delivery: Lifebank (Nigeria) - The lack of an established blood supply network in Nigeria can make access to appropriate blood transfusion very difficult and is contributing to loss of life. LifeBank is working to change this dynamic. The company receives requests through a digital platform with the intent of delivering the necessary blood to hospitals in less than 45 minutes in a WHO Blood Transfusion Safety compliant cold chain.
  • Healthcare worker burnout: The Hope Initiative (Rwanda) - More than 50 percent of emergency care workers are at high risk for burnout given the nature of their jobs. The Hope Initiative builds upon research that has demonstrated the positive influence of intrinsic hope on health outcomes of healthcare workers and their patients. Using a validated metric, The Hope Initiative intends to measure hope among nurses and mothers to understand how hope intersects with healthcare worker burnout and perinatal health outcomes. 
  • Hearing loss: Dreet (Botswana) - More than 460 million people around the world are hearing-impaired, and two-thirds of them live in developing countries. Hearing loss can lead to unnecessary poverty and hardship in affected families and communities. DREET is a mobile phone app that allows a child in rural Africa to have their hearing tested in real time by a professional who may live thousands of miles away. 
  • Jaundice: Crib a'Glow (Nigeria) - An estimated six million babies do not receive treatment for neonatal jaundice because they lack access to effective phototherapy devices. If untreated, severe jaundice can cause hearing loss, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, kernicterus and even death. Crib A'glow is a solar-powered, foldable phototherapy crib provided to hospitals, health centers and parents, even in communities where access to quality healthcare and stable electricity is poor. 
  • Malaria: Uganics (Uganda) - Uganda has one of the highest malaria transmission rates in the world, and malaria is also one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Uganda, especially among children under five years old. Commercial mosquito repellent sprays or gels are often not available in rural shops nor are they affordable for many low-income parents. Uganics manufactures an organic, affordable soap that repels mosquitos with intent to help prevent the spread of malaria. 
  • Ultrasound: Mscan (Uganda) – The WHO recommends at least one ultrasound scan before 24 weeks' gestation and eight total prenatal visits for expecting mothers. Rural communities often lack access to ultrasound machines, requiring expecting mothers to spend valuable time, energy and resources on transportation to faraway clinics in order to access ultrasound services. mSCAN's device performs ultrasounds through the use of a portable probe and a tablet, laptop, or smartphone, allowing trained healthcare workers and midwives to be prepared for potential risk-factors during delivery.

African News Agency (ANA)