June 14 (UPI) — A Ugandan inventor has won the Royal Academy of Engineering‘s prestigious Africa Prize for developing a method of testing for malaria without drawing blood.
Brian Gitta, 24, became the prize’s youngest winner Wednesday after he and his team developed Matibabu, or “medical center” in Swahili, the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement.
Gitta’s low-cost, reusable invention clips onto a patient’s finger and provides a result within 60 seconds on a mobile phone. A red beam shines through the user’s finger to detect changes in shape, color and concentration of red blood cells — all of which are affected by malaria.
“We are very proud of this year’s winner. It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development — in this case by improving healthcare,” Africa Prize judge Rebecca Enonchong said. “Matibabu is simply a game-changer.”
Shafik Sekitto, a member of the Matibabu team, told BBC News Gitta came up with the idea for a bloodless test after it once took four normal blood tests for medics to diagnose him with malaria — the leading cause of death in Uganda. “[Gitta] brought up the idea: ‘Why can’t we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing a disease without having to prick somebody?” Sekitto said.
Gitta won more than $33,000 as the first-place winner at a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, where Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most promising engineering innovation. Three runners-up won more than $13,000 each. “We are incredibly honored to win the Africa Prize — it’s such a big achievement for us, because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators,” Gitta said.
“The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities — which is what we need most at the moment.”
The award, founded by Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize for engineering innovation.
Innovators across Africa are harnessing digital technology to develop new ways of tackling social and economic challenges. From the rise of Silicon Savannah to the launch of M-PESA, the continent has a burgeoning tech sector that is driving a social tech movement that puts people before profits. These inspirational projects are making a positive difference to people’s lives in their own communities and creating social change at a national level.
For the last four years, Nominet Trust has identified and celebrated 100 different socially-motivated startups from across the globe. In our 2016 NT100, we feature some extraordinary examples of how pioneers from across Africa are using tech for good to promote education equality, economic empowerment and access to medical care.
In Kenya, a lack of physical space at universities and the prohibitive costs of attending can be barriers to often capable students pursuing degree programmes. Daystar University in Nairobi and California startup, OneUni, partnered up to tackle this and make university education accessible to more Kenyans. Together they created Africa’s first smartphone degree programme, Daystar Mobile, where all course materials are made available through an app. They now have plans to expand the model to other African countries to reach thousands of more students, aiming to make university education more accessible across the continent.
Another venture bolstering education in Kenya is Tunapanda Institute. Approximately one-third of Kenyan children do not enrol into a high school because of financial constraints, so brothers Jay and Mick Larson created a free, open source online training programme to help bridge this digital divide. Tunapanda Institute currently delivers three-month intensive learning courses in technology, design and business, giving students access to vital skills that can act as an alternative to traditional high school diplomas. At the institute’s HQ in Nairobi, specific workshops are also held to provide girls with skills in the STEM subjects, helping address the gender gap in these fields. To date, 100 people have graduated from the programme, of whom 85 percent are in meaningful employment as a result.
After the disputed elections in Kenya in 2007, over 800 people were killed, leaving a generation of youths feeling disenfranchised. To help get to the heart of what young Kenyan’s wanted to talk about, Rob Burnet established Well Told Story, a research consultancy which is famous for creating Shujaaz, meaning ‘heroes’ in Sheng. Shujaaz is a free, international Emmy-winning comic book that now has a monthly circulation of 500,000 and a readership that Burnet estimates to be five million Kenyans aged between 10 and 25. The content is lovingly crafted by young people based in Well Told Story’s Nairobi office and offers readers tips on everything from planting maize to contraception, information about upcoming elections and careers.Enhancing daily living
In Cape Town, communities living in deprived areas are threatened by the devastation caused by house fires which can sweep through the neighbourhood. Lumkani, which means ‘beware’ in Xhosa, was created by a group of students horrified by the danger faced by less advantaged citizens in their city, to help save lives in the event of these fires. Lumkani transmits a signal to devices within a 20-metre radius so that neighbours are aware of potential danger and can mobilise help or evacuate. Since launching in 2014, Lumkani has been installed in 7,000 homes in Cape Town, and co-founders Francois Petousis and Samuel Ginsburg say that the device has already prevented the spread of what could have been five major fires.
Although 70 percent of Nairobi’s population rely on the matatus – 20,000 private vans which transport people around the capital – there’s very little information available on how to navigate this seemingly chaotic system. In 2011, researchers at MIT, Columbia University and the University of Nairobi, together with design agency Upshot, began a collaborative mapping project to make sense of the matatus system to support those travelling on it. By recruiting Kenyan students to ride the matatus and log journeys using mobile and GPS, by 2015 Digital Matatus had recorded almost 3,000 stops on more than 130 routes. Since its release, the city of Nairobi has adopted the map as the capital’s official transit guide and more than 5,000 people have downloaded it online.
Childhood friends Brian Bett and Taita Ng’etich, whose families are farmers, set out to explore better solutions to farming after their young tomato crop was destroyed by flooding. They developed a system using low-cost materials and advanced sensor technologies to monitor their crops to prevent this happening again. When neighbours started asking them to build their own greenhouses, they founded a new business: Illuminum Greenhouses. Each greenhouse is fitted with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity and soil moisture, alerting farmers to change the settings via text messages. To date, more than 750 Kenyan farmers are using Illuminum’s technology and the pair aspires to scale the innovation so it can be deployed all over Africa and Latin America.
In the October issue of Vogue, three-time cover girl Lupita Nyong’o talks about growing up in Nairobi, and her desire to see more African narratives represented in Hollywood and beyond. “I want to create opportunities for other people of color because I’m fortunate enough to have a platform to do that,” she said.
Recently, Nyong’o starred in “Eclipsed” on Broadway, playing a 15-year-old girl held captive by a rebel officer in Liberia. In her latest film, “Queen of Katwe,” she plays the mother of a Ugandan girl who becomes an international chess master. (The film opens next week.) And she’s also working on the forthcoming film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah“— a love story that centers around two Nigerians.
“Being able to use my platform to expand and diversify the African voice … I feel very passionate about that. It feels intentional, meaningful,” Nyong’o said. She was drawn to “Queen of Katwe,” she said, because it was “based on a true story, an uplifting story out of Africa.” Nyong’o also reflected — not for the first time — on the significance of seeing darker-skinned women represented and celebrated as beautiful.
“Alek Wek changed how dark people saw themselves,” she said. “That I could do the same in a way for somebody somewhere is amazing.” She added, “The European sense of beauty affects us all. I came home from college in the early two-thousands and saw ads on TV with a girl who can’t get a job. She uses this product. She gets her skin lighter. She gets the job. The lording of lighter skin is a common thing growing up in Nairobi. Being called ‘black mamba.’ The slow burn of recognizing something else is better than you.”
Working on the set of “Queen of Katwe,” Nyong’o said a young Ugandan-British woman came up to her and said: “I’ve never had so many people call me beautiful until you showed up. I get called to auditions I never would have been called to before. I know it’s because you exist.”
On Friday, the World Economic Forum on Africa presented the five winners of the conference’s challenge to find Africa’s top women innovators. The winners, whose innovations were from the areas including mobile health insurance, solar powered vending carts, bio medical materials and IT training as well as food processing, hail from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
Currently, Africa has the youngest population in the world and this is expected to double by 2045. In view of this, several global leaders have attested to the fact that Africa’s future lies in the hands of its youthful population. The region’s start-up businesses are gaining confidence and scale with a growing number of innovations achieving recognition beyond the region’s borders. However, a lot still has to be done in order to create an enabling environment that will allow women to flourish. Due to this set back, the World Economic Forum decided to run this competition to find Africa’s top female innovators especially as the potential of women entrepreneurs is far from optimum.
“I strongly believe that the 21st century will be Africa’s century, that its young population has the potential to build a world where they are not only materially better off, but also where things are fairer, more sustainable and more tolerant than at any other time in history. But this will not be achieved unless women are able to make a full contribution. This is why we are showcasing Africa’s best female entrepreneurs in Kigali this week,” said Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum.
Here are Africa’s top female innovators, selected based on the criteria for the WEF Africa challenge. This required entrant companies to be less than three years old, be earning revenue for at least a year and have proven innovation and positive social impact.
Natalie Bitature – Musana Carts, Kampala, Uganda
Musana Carts has used frugal innovation to develop environmentally friendly, solar-powered vending carts. With a price point of $400, each Musana Cart saves 3,000 tons of carbon emissions and improves the health of cities by eliminating pollution from charcoal and kerosene stoves.
Audrey Cheng – Moringa School, Nairobi, Kenya
Audrey Cheng established Moringa School to enable an entire generation gain the skills they need to compete in the digital economy. Two years on, graduates work in the top tech companies in the region, earning, on average, 350 percent more than before they completed the course.
Jussie Smollett will host the eighth season of the public television show AfroPoP: The Ultimate Exchange.The star of the hit FOX TV showEmpirewill emcee the popular show about contemporary art, life and culture across the African Diaspora as it premieres on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 18, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT onWORLD Channel.
Smollett will also be seen in the new WGN thriller Undergroundin 2016. The acclaimed entertainer is also involved in numerous humanitarian pursuits, sitting on the boards of the Black AIDS Institute, Artists for a New South Africa and the RuJohn Foundation.
Previous hosts of AfroPoP include Idris Elba, Anika Noni Rose, Wyatt Cenac, Gabourey Sidibe, Anthony Mackie and Yaya DaCosta.
“AfroPoP’s engaging, real-life tales add to the collection of rich Black stories that audiences are clamoring for and I wanted to be a part of bringing them to national attention,” said Smollett.
The dazzling Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o samples the fall couture collections and talks to Plum Sykes about fame, family, and her four new acting projects.
It’s the Monday morning of Paris Couture Week, and Lupita Nyong’o appears, right on time, from the elevator of Le Bristol hotel. Never mind that she’s come direct from a trip to her native Kenya, which she just happened to combine with an elephant-saving mission. Or that her flight landed only a few hours ago. Or that all her bags were lost en route. She is wearing a dramatically sculpted scarlet Dior minidress, her short hair is teased into a halo and held off her face with an Alice band, and her beautiful skin gleams with health. As she bounces into the lobby, her mirrored, blue-tinted Dior sunglasses reflect a roomful of transfixed admirers.
“Hello-ooo!” she says, her voice deep and warm, as she breaks into a gigantic smile. She removes her sunglasses to reveal wide, dark eyes, sprinkled with glittery silver eye shadow. Her eyebrows are precision-plucked—no Cara Delevingne strays for her. “Really, I’m not tired,” insists Lupita. She’s beaming with excitement. This is her first Paris Couture.
There are few actresses as instantly recognizable as 32-year-old Lupita Nyong’o, who took on the role of the slave girl Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slavewhile a student at Yale—and went on to win an Oscar in 2014. In one fell swoop Lupita conquered Hollywood, seduced the fashion world, and found herself shouldering the dreams of an entire continent.
A few minutes later we are crawling through traffic, heading to the Dior show at the Musée Rodin. Settling herself patiently in the back of the car, Lupita tells me, “I didn’t know the power of couture until I tried on a couture dress. It made me cry.”
Lupita has an old-school attitude to fashion. She calls pants “slacks.” When I joke about this with her, she responds, “What can I say? I’m a Pisces. I have the soul of an 80-year-old woman inside me.” Long before the world was awed by her movie debut and her Oscar speech, for which she wore an exquisite baby-blue Prada chiffon gown, Lupita was properly turned out. Her first memory of fashion was at age five, wearing her “very eighties red cord miniskirt with suspender straps. Presentation is extremely important in Kenya. You dress formally. You can’t just wear flip-flops. My mother always had her own style. She wore A-line, tea-length flowery dresses, very well fitting. Her nails were always perfectly done.” As a girl in Nairobi, Lupita recalls, “salons were a big feature in my life. We would go every two weeks to get our hair braided, washed, or treated. That’s where I read American, British, and a few African magazines.Then I would design my own clothes. In Kenya it’s much cheaper to get clothes made than to buy them. We would have everything run up by a tailor, or my aunt Kitty, who is very creative, would sew things for me.”
It may seem an unlikely combination, but politics were as ever-present in the Nyong’o household as style. Lupita’s father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, now a senator, was for a long period an opposition politician under the repressive Moi regime. He spent three years in self-imposed exile with his family in Mexico, where Lupita was born.
The Nyong’os returned to Nairobi when Lupita was one. The following years she remembers as “scary, but I was at an age where you couldn’t fully understand what was happening.” Her father was at times detained in jail, once for an entire month, and the family “had to destroy a lot of his documents. I wasn’t allowed to go to school. We were basically locked up in the house. The curtains were shut all the time, and we were just burning papers.” She says the experience made her resilient. “I was definitely exposed to some extreme situations. Tragedy is something that I have known and that I have tried to accept as part of life. But I don’t dwell on it. . . . OK! I need to powder my nose!”
We have arrived at the Dior show, and Lupita, her beautiful nose suitably blotted with custom-blended Lancôme Miracle Cushion (she is the newest face of Lancôme), strides confidently across the lawn toward a vast glasshouse that has been splashed with Pointillism-style dots. Photographers snap pictures constantly as she is escorted by a gaggle of worshipful Dior publicists to the front row.
The sublime collection makes me want to throw out every single piece of clothing I own. As Lupita walks backstage afterward to meet Dior designer Raf Simons, she says, “I loved the breeziness of everything, the coats thrown over the dresses.” Her favorite piece is a demure, New Look–inspired green-and-pink print, A-line silk pleated coat. It’s the kind of thing a very, very chic Sunday-school teacher might have worn circa 1952. “I can work a pleat,” adds Lupita. (At Cannes this year she did just that, twirling up the red carpet in an emerald-green Gucci dressthat was a swirl of hundreds of pleats.) Backstage, while the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and the singer Grimes look patiently on, Lupita is greeted with excitement by Simons. He thinks Lupita is “so radiant and seems to take such pleasure in playing with fashion.” Next, the actress Emily Blunt, chic in white, grasps Lupita’s hand. “I am so thrilled to meet you,” she declares. “I am a huge fan.”
I can’t think of another actress who has appeared in only one major role in an American film and caused quite such a stir. (Lupita also played a smaller part in last year’s Liam Neeson movie Non-Stop.) But, as she tells me that evening, her output will be dramatically upped this fall. We visit the historic restaurant Le Grand Véfour in the Palais Royal for an indulgent dinner. The maître d’ offers Lupita the honor of sitting in Napoleon’s seat—now a plush crimson velvet banquette—and she accepts gracefully. She is dressed in an asymmetric print Dior silk top, skinny black pants, and high heels (all on loan while the aforementioned lost luggage is being located). While we tuck into delicious platters of fish, sorbets, and cheeses, Lupita tells me that she has just spent four months filming a CGI character—a pirate named Maz Kanata—for J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening this December. “We needed a powerful actress to play a powerful character,” the director explains to me later. “Lupita was someone I’d known a little and was enormously fond of. More important, her performance in 12 Years a Slave blew my mind, and I was vaguely desperate to work with her.”
Acting a motion-capture character was “really bizarre and lots of fun,” Lupita says. “I really enjoyed the fact that you’re not governed by your physical presence in that kind of work. You can be a dragon. You can be anything.”
When I ask her, “How do you act ‘anything’ ?,” she says, “My training at Yale is the core of the actor that I am. Before that I was just going on instinct . . . having my imagination take over. But Yale taught me that it’s about giving yourself permission to pretend.”
An important pretending trick is to dress in the same “uniform” every day while going to and from set. If she doesn’t have to think about what she’s wearing when she’s not in costume, this allows her to focus. When she was recently filming the Mira Nair–directed Queen of Katwe, the true story of a chess master raised in a Ugandan slum, she wore an A-line skirt and blouse every single day because that’s what her character wore. “One amazing thing about filming in Uganda was that on the first day of rehearsal we were all barefoot,” she remembers. “I looked down and all the feet were my complexion. That had not happened to me before. I was reminded that I’m actually not that special. There are lots of people in the world who look like me.”
One of the fashion world’s most timeless, elegant supermodels reached her diamond year today, and we’re celebrating her, of course. Iman—a Somali native who was discovered while attending university in Nairobi, Kenya at age 19—paved the way for black models to be treated equally in the industry from when she touched down in the U.S. in 1975, so there’s no better time to run through her iconic beauty moments.
We’ve noticed that the supermodel appears, well, ageless in photos both on and off the red carpet: Editorials from the ’80s look identical to ones from 2015, which speaks to good skincare, good genes and, of course, Iman’s inner beauty. The star, by the way, has been dishing about turning the big 6-0 this week, opening up to Style.com about what her next steps in life may be.
“I do feel that my next step will be focused specifically on my age group,” she said. “I think there is a blind way that America thinks about youth, and that needs to change. Everything happens out of your own experience. And, let me tell you, a lot is happening to me now. I can never be 20 or 30 [again] and I wouldn’t want to be. I’m almost 60 and I would love to change the way people view 60.”
We think you’ve already done that, Iman—for us, and many more to come.
In his first visit to his father’s country since he became president, Barack Obama made his rounds with extended family, addressed economic development and announced more than $1 billion in investments to promote entrepreneurship at Nairobi’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
He kicked off the two-day visit with the latter, making a point to announce that half of the $1 billion from government and private companies would benefit both young children and women entrepreneurs.
“If half of your team is not playing, you’ve got a problem,” he said. “This continent needs to be a future hub of global growth and not just African growth. Kenya is leading the way. Go out there and start something. We’re excited about it — we are expecting great things out of you,” Obama added.
The visit is not only historical for President Obama; the move is an important one that officially forges a relationship between America and the African nation.
“We have waited for Obama to visit the country since he became president — we want to thank God that he has finally arrived,” said Grace Wangeci, a vegetable seller in Nairobi told USA Today. “We thank him for fulfilling his promise to the country before he leaves the presidency.”
It’s also a special visit for the president, who remarked that the long-awaited journey was “personal” for him. Upon arriving to Kenya, Obama was greeted by his half-sister, Auma Obama, at Jomo Kenyatta Airport.
The president, who was also greeted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, met with other top officials during the reunion, dined with his extended family — including a step-grandmother — and celebrated with the locals.
“I am proud to be the first U.S. president to visit Kenya,” he said. “Obviously, it is personal for me. It’s the reason why my name is Barack Hussein Obama. My father came from these parts, I have family and relatives here.”
During his trip, Obama is also expected to discuss human rights with civil society groups — this despite a warning from Kenyan leaders who have threatened to disrupt the president’s visit if he discusses gay marriage.
“We want to warn Obama to steer clear of any comments on same sex marriages during his visit,” Bishop Mark Kariuki in Nairobi told USA Today. “Any attempts will lead to a call for mass demonstrations across the country and disrupt his meeting.”
Other topics the president plans to tackle include the regions security threats.
A field of triangular roofs pokes up above the horizon on the outskirts of Dakar, like a forest of wigwams that have been baked to stone under the scorching sub-Saharan sun. They sit on a triangular concrete plinth, from which bigger triangular pavilions protrude, accessed by flights of triangular steps from the dusty streets, along which triangular gutters jut out. It could be Toblerone Town, a city-sized hymn to the three-sided prism.
This mysterious complex, which looks like what might have happened if the Mayans had discovered reinforced concrete, is the Foire Internationale de Dakar, or FIDAK for short. It is a sprawling exhibition centre built in the capital of Senegal in 1975 to host the country’s biennial international trade fair – and trumpet the new nationstate’s presence on the global stage. Designed by little-known French architects Jean-François Lamoureux and Jean-Louis Marin, it is a project of obsessive and extraordinary detail. There are facades decorated with coloured pebbles and tiled mosaics, psychedelic sand art murals that evoke the rocky African coastline and its azure seas. Yet outside Senegal, this building is almost entirely unknown.
It is just one of the astounding projects documented by Swiss architect Manuel Herz, who has spent the last few years researching the architecture of African independence with his team at ETH University in Zurich. A period of bold structures and strident new forms, it is strangely absent from the recorded history of modern architecture. “There was an intense flowering of experimental and futuristic architecture in the 1960s and 70s, which the young African countries used to express their national identities,” says Herz, who has curated an exhibition of more than 80 buildings from sub-Saharan Africa, showing at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, until May. “But we simply don’t know about it. When people think of Africa, they think of poverty, misery and violence, while architects fetishise informality and focus on slum-upgrading. But we wanted to show this incredible cultural wealth that also exists.”
The buildings, a number of which have been beautifully shot by Dutch photographer Iwan Baan, portray a period of extreme confidence and political ambition. They are mostly the products of big, state-sponsored initiatives, from heroic parliament buildings and imposing central banks to daring universities and vast stadiums, many the pet projects of Africa’s “big man” leaders, built for propaganda purposes as much as anything else.
The Kenyatta International Conference Centre, whose pink cylindrical shaft towers above Nairobi, was initiated by the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, as a lavish new HQ for his ruling Kanu party. At 32 stories, it was by far the tallest structure in east Africa until the 1990s, a big column for Kenya’s big-man chieftain. Yet its great size can be credited to an accident of international intervention. In the midst of its design, the World Bank decided it would host its 1973 annual meeting in Nairobi, and the building was chosen as the venue, forcing a growth spurt. The tower almost tripled in height, while a magnificent auditorium shaped like a closed lily-bud was also added, and mirrored by an open flower form at the top of the tower containing a revolving restaurant.
Award-winning entrepreneur Andrew Mupuya was just 16 years old when he decided to take on the world. That was back in 2008, when both of Mupuya’s parents had lost their jobs and could only afford to cover his school fees. “I had to get to meet my basic needs by myself,” remembers the Ugandan businessman. “I decided to face the world alone.”
Inadvertently, the government of Uganda came to Mupuya’s aid. At the time, officials in the country announced that they were considering a ban on plastic bags to curb environmental damage. Mupuya, who was still in secondary school, immediately saw this as an opportunity to launch a paper bag production company. “I conducted a feasibility study, market research around retail shops, kiosks, supermarkets around Kampala and discovered there is need and potential market for paper bags.”
To start out his small operation, Mupuya figured out he needed a capital of 36,000 Ugandan shillings ($14). He raised the first $11 from selling 70 kilos of used plastic bottles he’d collected over one week. Mupuya then borrowed the remaining $3 from his school teacher and embarked on his entrepreneurial journey producing paper bags on a small scale. Since then, the business has grown extensively and today, at the age of 21, Mupuya is the owner of Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments (YELI), the first registered Ugandan company to make paper bags.