"Award for Innovation in Africa" Awarded for the First Time in Austria

More+Events ♦ Published: July 12, 2022; 12:33 ♦ (Vindobona)

The "Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa" was awarded for the first time this week to African start-ups, all of which were dedicated to the topic of digital health. The three winners come from Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe and can look forward to prize money of 250,000 euros each. Read on to find out what goals the respective projects have set themselves.

The award was presented to a total of 3 companies from Africa. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Regina Aigner

The "Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa" was recently presented for the first time in Vienna. The prize, which honours start-ups from Africa that have dedicated themselves to the field of digital health, was awarded to one company each from Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe and is endowed with 250,000 euros.

The "Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa" was presented for the first time to three African social entrepreneurs in the presence of the high-ranking jury, which had evaluated the field of participants from a total of 330 applications from a total of 38 African countries, as well as national and international guests in the ballroom of the Austrian Academy of Sciences by Chancellery Minister Karoline Edtstadler and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

The prize, named after Kofi Atta Annan (1938-2018), a Ghanaian diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was created with its focus on the rapid digitalisation on the African continent in order to contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal "Health and Wellbeing".

It breaks developmental thinking patterns and focuses on innovative, disruptive and entrepreneurial approaches to addressing global challenges. As Kofi Annan stated in 2002: "It is my aspiration that health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for but as a human right to be fought for".

"It is important that we continue to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Kofi Annan Award is a particularly important initiative for this. The 330 applications submitted show that there are numerous innovative, sustainable and creative ideas for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Above all, they also demonstrate the great entrepreneurial potential on the African continent, which must be harnessed," said Federal Minister Karoline Edtstadler, who is responsible for SDG coordination.

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg: "There is war in Europe again. The accompanying shock waves are also leaving deep scars on the African continent. Much of the progress we have made together in recent years in the field of development and health care is in danger of being wiped out. Added to this is the Russian blockade of food exports, which could develop into a humanitarian crisis, especially in North African states. The projects awarded today counter Putin's cynicism with creative and innovative solutions."

330 applications from 38 African countries demonstrate Africa's enormous entrepreneurial potential in the health sector. With modern, digital solutions that, in the absence of established structures, are completely oriented towards the needs of the people, doctors and physicians, companies are closing bottlenecks and gaps in care on the African continent.

"Innovation and technology can do so much good in the world, and together we can solve the world's greatest challenges," explains Bernhard Kowatsch, head of the partner organisation World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator.

Artificial intelligence (AI) in particular is improving health services and diagnostics, while digitalisation is improving telemedicine and electronic health documentation. In 2020, 9 percent of the 2.4 billion US dollars invested on the African continent went into the health sector, only surpassed by fintech and cleantech investments.

Digital health in particular is the perfect terrain for "reverse innovations": low-cost, easy-to-use ideas for healthcare are developed by the stakeholders - the patient and medical community - at the point of action. The following 3 African companies convinced the high-ranking jury:

1. Flare

With its cloud-based solution, the award winner Flare Emergency Response provides relief. In Kenya, one call to the mobile number 911 is enough for the 35-member team to coordinate an ambulance service within a few minutes. The start-up networks hundreds of ambulances and hospitals on its digital platform and thus closes a gap in primary health care.

One million people already use the 24/7 app. Since its founding in 2016, Flare has saved more than 10,000 acute patients and, with its network, helped 4,000 babies to be born with optimal care in hospital.

The team, with more than 50 per cent women, plans to expand the digitally built emergency service to 5 other African countries in the coming years, in partnership with governments and the private sector, to save millions of lives.

2. myPaddi by MOBicure

Award winner myPaddi gives young people in Africa discreet access to sexual health. The app for web and mobile phone provides support in cases of sexual violence, avoiding teenage pregnancies or HIV infections.

It offers anonymous one-on-one sessions with doctors and trained counsellors, community exchange and sexual health products on the online marketplace. Currently, 130,000 young people in 16 African countries use the app.

Founded in 2015, the company is listed as one of the top 30 health innovations in Africa, and also offers high-quality access to medical professionals for doctors, NGOs or international institutions. With a chatbot and new e-centres in rural areas, myPaddi aims to reach even more young people in the future.

3. Vaxiglobal

Award winner Vaxiglobal from Zimbabwe uses contactless biometrics to minimise waste of immunisation resources, improve data quality with open standards and enable the scale-up of immunisation campaigns in African countries. Their solution uses a mobile phone to scan patients' faces and create digital certificates in a cloud.

Currently, 320,000 people are registered and during the Covid 19 pandemic, the company verified 1.1 million vaccine doses in a pilot project.

Since its inception in 2019, Vaxiglobal built relationships with the ministries of health of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Federal Chancellery of Austria

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