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Ugandan finalist for African innovation award

By Apollo Mubiru

Added 31st May 2018 12:07 PM

Gitta’s innovation Matibabu tests for malaria quickly, accurately and without drawing blood. Matibabu means ‘medical centre’ in Swahili.

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Gitta’s innovation Matibabu tests for malaria quickly, accurately and without drawing blood. Matibabu means ‘medical centre’ in Swahili.

Brain Gitta

A Ugandan computer scientist, Brain Gitta, has been named a finalist for African prize for engineering innovation.

Giita is among inventors of a device that detects malaria without drawing blood, a cheap and sustainable recycling method to recover precious metals, an innovative smart meter that gives consumers more control over energy use and a textbook-sized science lab for kids are the four engineering innovators chosen as finalists for the prestigious 2018 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Gitta’s innovation Matibabu tests for malaria quickly, accurately and without drawing blood. Matibabu means ‘medical centre’ in Swahili. 

It is a low cost, reusable device that clips onto the user’s finger. The results are available within one minute and no special expertise is required to operate it.
A red beam of laser light shone through the user’s finger detects changes in the shape, colour and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria.

Gitta’s team is working closely with a large local hospital to run tests, and academic papers document their innovative work.

Other finalists come from Ghana, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, with the latter working in South Africa. They were chosen for engineering innovations that provide new solutions.

“All four of our finalists have found novel ways to address critical challenges in their home countries – in fact, problems that are faced all over the world,” said Africa prize judge, Rebecca Enonchong.

“We’re proud to be part of the development of world-class African technologies, and to support emerging African entrepreneurs.”

The finalists were selected from a pool of 16 shortlisted candidates from seven countries spanning sub-Saharan Africa. For the first time, Zimbabwe and Ghana are represented by Africa Prize finalists.

“All 16 candidates have received tailored business mentorship, developing skills that last a lifetime. Engineers are among the best problem solvers in the world – and it’s imperative that we support those who embark on business ventures that advance technology in all fields,” added Enonchong.

Africa Prize innovations have made an impact in a variety of countries and sectors, addressing problems like climate change, food security, utilities infrastructure, and access to transport and education. The 2018 finalists tackle challenges in STEM education, household energy use, responsible resource use in the automotive industry and appropriate medical technologies for Africa.

Of the 400,000 global deaths every year due to malaria, 90% are in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria kills more children under five in this region than HIV. All available tests for malaria require blood samples, which are invasive, expensive and time-consuming, and rely on well-resourced laboratories.

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