Innovation Prize for Africa 2016: Rewarding Africa’s bright minds

Minister of Infrastructure Science and Technology of Botswana Mr Nonofo Molefhi (black suit & white shirt) visiting SANBio stand at the Innovation Prize for Africa 2016.

The NEPAD-SANBio/BioFISA II participated at the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2016 from 22nd-23rd June 2016, at the Botswana Innovation Hub. The event was organised by Botswana Innovation Hub in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF). The theme for this year’s award ceremony was ‘Made in Africa,’ based on the belief that Africa can advance itself on the world map through self-innovation.

IPA is a landmark program of the AIF, whose purpose is to increase the prosperity of Africans by catalysing the innovation spirit in Africa. AIF offers several avenues of opportunity for local, national, regional and international growth and exposure to Africa’s next cadre of innovators. The IPA is an annual award ceremony that brings together the African community of problem solvers and celebrates Africa’s ingenuity

IPA 2016 winner offers innovative responses to address malaria & HIV/AIDS, two of Africa’s greatest disease burdens. 

Dr Valentin Agon of Benin the Grand Prize winner worth US$100 000 for his innovation Api-Palu, an anti-malaria drug treatment that has hit the market not only in Benin, but in Burkina Faso, Tchad, and Central African Republic (CAR). Made from natural plant extract, Api-Palu is significantly cheaper than anti-malarial drugs currently on the market; it has great inhibitory effects on 3D7 strains of plasmodium falciparum the causative agent of malaria.

Dr Imogen Wright of South Africa scooped the Second Prize of US$25 000 for her Exatype technology, a software solution that enables healthcare workers to determine HIV positive patients’ responsiveness to ARV drug treatment. Until now, national responses have focussed on access to treatment for all. However, a growing number of people on ARVs are resistant to drug regimens, leading to failure of the therapy, exacerbating the continent’s HIV burden. Exatype processes the highly complex data produced by advanced “next-generation” DNA sequencing of the HIV DNA in a patient’s blood. Through a simple report, it detects drugs that are resistant to the patient, then highlights the need to avoid these to ensure successful treatment.

Dr Eddy Agbo of Nigeria was awarded the Social Impact Prize of US$25 000 for his Urine Test for Malaria (UMT) a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device that can diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes. More often than not, when fever is detected, anti-malaria medication is administered. However, not all fevers are due to malaria. Also, the inability to quickly diagnose and commence malaria treatment can lead to various complications including kidney failure, build-up of lung fluid, aplastic anaemia and even death. UMT detects malaria parasite proteins in the patient’s urine with fever due to malaria; it is simple and affordable, and a potential game changer in managing malaria and saving lives across Africa.

The SANBio has learned through the IPA 2016 that the region has great innovations from agriculture, health, engineering and technologies that can actually solve most of the challenges faced by the region, continent and worldwide.

The SANBio would like to congratulate the finalists and winners of IPA 2016 particularly Dr Imogen Wright from South Africa who won the second prize. SADC was well represented indeed with six out of ten finalists from the region. We encourage innovators from the region to participate in most of events of the calibre.

Link to the IPA 2016 fianlists; http://innovationprizeforafrica.org/2016-finalists/