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WHO AFRO Innovation Newsletter - April 2021

02, April 2021

WHO AFRO Innovation Program Updates

Welcoming the Assistant Regional Director
The Research, Digital Health and Innovation Unit is happy to welcome the new Assistant Regional Director, Dr. Lindiwe Makubalo.

Dr Makubalo is a public health expert who served in the South African public service for over 20 years and led initiatives to advance equitable health access for all. She has occupied senior positions in programme development and implementation as well as policy and legislative reforms.

She has rich experience in disease surveillance and data management systems as well as research and innovation management related to tropical diseases and HIV.  She previously served at WHO HQ, as Director of the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, as well as a sabbatical position in the Special Programme for Research and Development in Tropical Diseases.

Dr Makubalo has served on numerous scientific and advisory boards, bodies and groups such as the South African Medicines Control Council, national ethics councils, several data systems boards, expert group on Oncocerciasis Control, Strategic advisory group on malaria eradication, and as African representative on the UNITAID Board. Most recently she held a diplomatic role as Minister, Health Expert for the South African Government to the United Nations in Geneva where she participated and led development of important policy and resolutions such as the NCD indicators monitoring and Ebola resolutions as chair along with other important activities to strengthen global policy for SDGs and health emergencies.

We look forward to working with Dr. Makubalo in the work of scaling up adoption of innovations and digital health solutions in the African Region and expanding the capacity of the organization to drive innovation internally and externally

Check out the latest updates on our innovation marketplace platform

Vaccine Delivery: A compilation of Key Technological innovations that have been developed across the World to Address Vaccine Delivery targeting various components of the Response, that include Infodemic management, Safety monitoring, Vaccination status, Counterfeit detection and Micro planning


HIV Services Innovations: Key HIV services technological innovations that have been developed across the World targeting various components of the response, that include prevention, diagnostics, HIV Services access, treatment, behavioural change and strategic information.


RMNCH Innovations: Key technological innovations that have been developed targeting various components of the response, that include reproductive services, maternal care, neonatal care and child care.


Innovation no longer a “male dominated” domain
African women leaders speak on innovation at AHAIC   

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director of WHO in the Africa Region, joined a group of women pioneers speaking at the Africa Health Agenda International Conference on International Women’s Day 2021. The virtual panel discussion centered on “Women in Innovation: Providing leadership, creating solutions and driving change.” Panelists shared their stories of how they overcame adversity and gender disparity as women inventors and entrepreneurs to make a difference.

Dr. Moeti narrated her story growing up in a South African township during apartheid. She encouraged participants especially young women to push for innovative changes even when facing challenges. She emphasized the importance of bringing men on board to support women in innovation.

“Help men to understand that it is to their benefit. Men can be powerful enablers of gender empowerment. Women are power… Let’s get men to support us,”

WHO AFRO has also engaged in the push towards gender equity with ambitious goals for its own gender inclusion programs to include support for female innovators.

The full session can be viewed here.


New partnerships for innovation
Demand-driven scaling of innovations in the public sector

WHO AFRO recently joined the Public Sector Innovation Demand & Scaling Initiative which brings together a global group of expert practitioners from the public and private sector to align on the approach to scaling up demand-driven health innovations.  The primary objective of the initiative is to regularly convene a forum through which international funders and partners discuss opportunities and challenges related to sustainable scaling up of health innovations to accelerate impact. Other partners in this initiative include GIZ, The World Bank, Grand Challenges Canada (GCC), Results for Development (R4D), USAID, Global Innovation Fund and others.

WHO AFRO’s Innovation Challenge produces spin off results!

A WHO AFRO 2018 Innovation Challenge winner, Dr. Frida Njogu-Ndongwe was announced as the new IDinsight East Africa Regional Director. She was selected through a meticulous search process and stood out as an accomplished leader in development and organizational management. Frida is a medical doctor, public health specialist, development and management consultant and entrepreneur with over 16 years of professional experience. She is the co-founder and was most recently the CEO of Afyakit Technologies, a Kenya-based start-up that was named by WHO as among the 30 top innovations with the highest potential for health impact in Africa.

WHO AFRO is proud to have actively supported the development and recognition of Africa’s next generation of women innovative leaders

A WHO AFRO 2018 Innovation Challenge winner, Dr Misaki Wayengera, an expert in innovative diagnostics for tropical diseases, led the team at Uganda’s Makerere University Department of Pathology in the development of a rapid COVID-19 antibody test kit.

The kit was formally launched by the Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero for use in surveillance in high-risk transmission settings such as schools and prisons. The kit can be used in remote village settings where there’s no laboratory, electricity and professional experts. Makerere University has since partnered with a local firm, Astel Diagnostics Uganda, which is a WHO-certified manufacturer, to make an initial batch of 2,400 tests.

Learn more about Dr. Wayengera’s work here.

Check it out!

WHO has released the first iteration of its interim guidance for developing Smart Vaccination Certificates and a call for public comments. You can provide constructive feedback on this document by 12 April 2021.

 For more information on the guidance and to comment click here.

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Please access our webpage for additional innovation related information:

For specific inquiries, please contact Dr. Moredreck Chibi


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