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Africa innovates: 50 homegrown African innovations tackling COVID-19

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Message from UNDP Africa Director, Ahunna Eziakonwa, Regional Director and Assistant Secretary General for UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

AFRICA'S YOUNG INNOVATORS BLAZE THE TRAIL IN FIGHTING COVID-19

Build forward better. This is the mantra for global recovery from COVID-19 and Africa is no exception. The world continues to falter under the weight of an unprecedented pandemic. Nothing is spared – not economies, not politics – and most unfortunately, not lives.

But we also observe something different as prescriptive orthodox models fracture - paving way for the previously hidden talent and ingenuity of Africa’s youth to thrive. At the start of 2020, many would have bet their gold that sub-Saharan Africa was not the likely home for inventions in drones, robots, contact tracing apps, non-invasive testing kits, portable hands-free sanitation chambers, oxygen-making machines, genome sequencing, AI-powered healthcare chat bots and so much more. And yet here we are, witnessing an incredible display of possibility. Africa is managing the complexity of the world’s most denting pandemic – and looking within for solutions against it.

UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

Pre-COVID, Africa imported up to 94 percent of its medication. And even though we are far from being out of the woods, we continue to observe a home-grown PPE revolution – signalling green shoots of capacity. It is in this footprint that we must invest.

Supporting this untapped potential is what new generation development programming demands of all of us.

At UNDP Africa, we are sold to this approach. It is this promise lens that underpins UNDP’s renewed strategic offer in Africa. We choose to see African innovation as part of a transformative change process.

The promise lens puts people first - propagating a showcase of talent, investing in creativity, resilience, and resourcefulness.

In the inaugural Africa Innovates Magazine, we start a journey of telling an African story of promise and influence. We have sought, and found, 50 of some of Africa’s innovators who see in COVID-19, the opportunity to solve the challenges it imposes, thereby lending credence to possibility and hope, rather than despair. We see each of these innovators as an important part of the web of hands rebuilding Africa forward and delivering solutions for a new Africa.

LIMITLESS INGENUITY

However, the innovators we have featured in this maiden edition are not the only ones making positive contributions against the pandemic on the continent. There are many more. This, therefore, is by no means an exhaustive list, and also importantly, it is not a ranking.

For this initial compilation, we selected the 50 innovators based on criteria, which took into account at least the following: The projects had to be made in Africa, scalable, problem-solvers, impactful, inspirational, applicable, safe and encompass a disruptor factor.

Africa is teeming with more of the featured talent. Innovative ideas, especially by its youth, are limitless. We will, therefore, endeavor to continue showcasing what the continent offers and tell their stories to the world.

I hope that you will be as inspired as I am – and that you will join us in investing in Africa’s promise.

Choose to believe in Africa – it is the future of development.