This study on the 2018 WHO Africa Innovation Challenge has highlighted some of the successes and challenges surrounding the scaling of health innovations in the African Region today. The Innovation Challenge demonstrated the capacity for the African innovators to create innovative homegrown solutions that meet pressing health demands in their own communities. Many have been able to scale and have demonstrable impacts on their health systems and develop business models that are selfsustaining. However, these innovators continue to face challenges. These challenges will require a cross sectoral approach involving government, private sector actors, regulators, funders, educational institutions, research bodies and development partners from the health, education, technology, financing, infrastructure, and other domains.
The COVID-19 pandemic could be a blessing in disguise for Africa’s future growth because innovative ideas for addressing it could chart a path for future tech-based economies, scientists say. The technologies that have been developed in response to COVID-19 in Africa include WhatsApp Chatbots in South Africa, self-diagnostic tools in Angola, contact tracing apps in Ghana and mobile health information tools in Nigeria. “Africa’s future is dependent on technology and innovation, which are crucial for addressing the challenges of low structural transformation and inclusive development on the continent,” says Moredreck Chibi, WHO Africa regional advisor for innovation, in an interview with SciDev.Net this month. “There is a need for investing in innovation as an absolute and fundamental shift in the continent’s traditional business model.”
This compendium seeks to highlight a selection of the homegrown innovations that emerged from Africa in addressing the challenges of COVID-19. Many of these innovations can be scaled effectively within the region or repurposed in a post-COVID-19 context to further advance health and development goals.
This paper presents an analysis of a compilation of key technological innovations that have been developed across the world currently being used to address COVID-19 pandemic targeting various areas of the response as adopted from the WHO COVID-19 response strategy.
With the increasing rate of globalization, innovation has become a key differentiating transformative feature that defines the long-term sustainable impact on improving the quality of life of the world’s population. There is an even greater demand for Africa to intensify its innovation effort to address its contextual challenges. The demand for innovation is even higher in the health sector where health outcomes are poor, despite global progress in reducing deaths among mothers and children and fighting infectious diseases. Worse health outcomes are experienced in fragile contexts and among marginalized groups. This strategy presents an opportunity for the Member States to strengthen their innovation systems to make them responsive to the innovation needs of the African Region. Success in developing a functional innovation system that harnesses and scales up new and improved innovations will be a key determinant in achieving UHC and the health-related SDGs.
Promoting and protecting health is essential to human welfare and sustained economic and social development. This was recognized more than 30 years ago by the Alma-Ata Declaration signatories, who noted that Health for All would contribute both to a better quality of life and also to global peace and security. Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) committed in 2005 to develop their health financing systems so that all people have access to services and do not suffer financial hardship paying for them (4). This goal was defined as universal coverage, sometimes called universal health coverage as presented in this Report.