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Africa Bracing for Tech Innovations to Quell Spread of Covid-19

With outstripping demand in production of health equipments globally. Many local companies and startup hubs across Africa are ramping up innovative solutions, even for the most basic and temporary of needs during this coronavirus pandemic.

Residents transfer money using the M-Pesa banking service at a store in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg via Getty

Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Uganda have started looking into producing their own health equipments, improvement in mobile money transfer and turning available technological innovations into public-health tools.

Jumia, the African e-commerce giant has made a great move by offering all governments on the continent to use its last-mile delivery network for distribution of supplies to health care facilities and workers to their destinations.


Ghana’s e-health startup Redbird launched a COVID-19 tracker in late March. The browser-based app enables users to self-report symptoms without needing to visit a health care facility.

World Health Organization virtual hackathons, offered up to $20,000 (€18,400) in seed funds to finalists with digital solutions to curb the pandemic.

The winning team from Ghana developed a tool that maps test cases similar to the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. The difference, however, is their screening tool can classify the cases, according to risk and submit the data to national authorities.

Ghana’s central bank, on March 20 directed mobile money providers to waive fees on transactions of GH₵100 (≈ $18), with restrictions on transactions to withdraw cash from mobile-wallets.

The apex monetary body in the West African country also eased KYC requirements on mobile-money, allowing citizens to use existing mobile phone registrations to open accounts with the major digital payment providers, according to an official release.


A local auto manufacturer, Innoson Motors, has sidelined its production to manufacture ventilators in the Africa’s most populous nation. While Africa Business Angel Network, a nonprofit venture capitalist in Nigeria is working on another ventilators prototype.

Wellvis an on-demand health information platform has created an easy-to-use app called COVID-19 Triage Tool. The free app allows users to self-asses their coronavirus risk category based on their symptoms and exposure history. Depending on the answers, a user has offered remote medical advice or referred to a nearby health care facility.

Nigeria’s largest digital payments startup venture  based in Lagos, Paga have made service fee adjustments, allowing merchants to accept payments from Paga customers for free — a measure “aimed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing cash handling in Nigeria,” according to a company release.

South Africa

The South African government is using WhatsApp to run an interactive chatbot which can answer common queries about COVID-19 myths, symptoms and treatment. It has reached several million users in five different languages.

Yoco, a small-business payments startup in South Africa, issued a directive to clients to encourage customers to use the contactless payment option to its point of sale machines. The startup has also accelerated development of a remote payment product, that would enable transfers on its client network via a web link.

Two former University of Cape Town students has created Coronapp, a tool that centralizes information flow about the pandemic in South Africa, in an effort to curb fake news and curb panic.


Zimbabwean startup, Fresh In A Box, is delivering fresh produce door to door, directly from farmers. The company runs off an app, and the venerable three-wheeled motorcycles deliver the food boxes. This helps reduce the risk of infection and prevents people from starving.


The Market Garden app lets vendors sell and deliver fruits and vegetables to customers as restrictions to promote social distancing have been enforced in Uganda. Developed by the Institute for Social Transformation, a Ugandan charity, it reduces bustling crowds in market areas by allowing women to sell their goods from their homes through the app. Motorcycle taxis deliver the goods to customers.

Also, Vincent Ssembatya, a professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, teamed up with another success story, car manufacturer Kiira Motors, with the only goal of making affordable ventilators to supply the country’s cash-strapped health care system. “Everyone is demanding the same product, so Africa has a very small chance,” Ssembatya says in a report.


In March, telecoms giant Safaricom, which owns M-Pesa has waived fees on transfers of under 1,000 shillings ($10/€9), while Airtel has also waived charges on all payments through its platform Airtel Money. M-Pesa is used by more than 20 million people.
Now, daily transaction limits on the platform have also been increased from 70,000 shillings ($660) to 150,000 shillings ($1,415) for small and medium-sized enterprises.

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