In Africa, most heart specialists live and work in large cities or urban centers. But a majority of Africans live hundreds of miles from such centers without the resources to visit these specialists. Heart disease goes unchecked in many rural communities. A young Cameroonian engineer, Arthur Zang addressed this issue by creating the cardiopad–a touch-screen medical tablet that measures important information like rhythmic contraction and expansion of the heart, and produces graphs that are wirelessly transmitted to cardio specialists to analyze. This pad can save people hundreds of dollars in transportation costs. It helps avoid the need to travel to visit a specialist for routine labwork.
The Hippo Roller
Millions of people in rural areas of Africa do not live with a water source in their homes, or even near one. For these individuals, retrieving water can involve carrying heavy buckets on their heads for long distances, but not everybody has the strength do this. The Hippo Roller is a water drum that can be rolled on the ground, so people with injuries, the elderly, children and the like can transfer water from a source far from their homes, into their kitchens. The roller has long, upward-angled handles at the top, so the person pushing it does not need to bend over to push it. Two South Africans, Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker, developed the roller after growing up on farms and seeing how difficult it was for many people to bring water to their homes.
Portable water pumps
In Africa, only 6 percent of cultivated land is irrigated. Add to that the unpredictable climate, and many parts of the continent cannot grow crops out of season. Kick Start is a nonprofit that creates portable water pumps and sells them to farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali. The group sells the pumps rather than giving them away to promote a spirit of entrepreneurialism in the community. Many farmers rent out their pumps for further income. So far the group said it has sold 276,664 pumps, lifted 1,037,000 people out of poverty and helped create 190,000 jobs.
Credit through your phone
Credit cards are still not widely available to Kenyans. Unfortunately, most loan companies capitalize on this shortcoming by charging unrealistic interest rates–sometimes as high as 50 percent. M-Pepea is a company that lets Kenyans take out emergency funds through their mobile phones. They can take out up to 20 percent of their monthly salary, and will receive a pin from M-Pepea to collect it. Customers then visit a Safaricom branch and collect their cash. They are charged 10 percent interest, and the money is taken out of their paycheck at the end of the month. This is a great concept for anyone who is just getting on their feet and won’t qualify for a credit card. Many people don’t have the funds to fulfill basic needs like paying rent, but will after several months of paychecks.
The orange sweet potato
Anyone who has children or works with children knows how difficult it is to get young children to eat their fruits and vegetables. Getting a child to eat a few bites of food that is good for them can require half an hour of encouragement, and at the end of it, they do not consume nearly enough to meet their nutritional needs. In Uganda, this issue cannot be solved by something as easy as giving gummy vitamins. Nearly 30 percent of Ugandan children suffer from vitamin A deficiency, sometimes resulting in blindness. USAID developed an orange sweet potato with four to six times more beta-carotene (which turns into vitamin A) than regular sweet potatoes. The product is sold in Ugandan markets, and children who eat it regularly have significant health boosts. This food could be beneficial for picky eaters anywhere in the world.
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration or FMNR has been active since the 1950s and 1960s when Niger underwent massive deforestation to make room for crops. The soil quality became so poor following the deforestation that attempting to grow new trees wasn’t working for local farmers. Farmers in the region started trimming and pruning existing tree stumps, regenerating old land. Senegal has since used FMNR to combat the massive drought that has caused a widespread food shortage in the country. Through FMNR, soil fertility can improve, trees can grow back, natural fauna and flora will return and fuel wood and fodder can become available.
Audio books for mental health
In many parts of Africa, speaking about or acknowledging mental illness isn’t happening. That’s the norm in various countries around the world. When visiting or speaking to a psychologist or therapist isn’t an option, people often read books about depression, but researchers found that hasn’t been too effective in Africa. Zane Wilson, the founder of the South African Depression & Anxiety group, created Speaking Books–free e-books that help the listener get through common mental conditions like anxiety and depression. The books have proven tremendously effective, and the company has now put out nearly 50 titles in 24 languages through 20 African countries.
TB/HIV testing van
Even those who have access to clinics and doctors are often reluctant to get tested for TB or HIV. The process can feel overwhelming, and simply driving to the appointment can be too much. The Tutu Tester van is a mobile clinic in South Africa that brings trained medical professionals including a nurse and educator to remote communities. The van groups TB and HIV testing as a regular checkup to remove the stigma and encourage people to take the tests. This type of service could be ideal for elderly communities which are at higher risk for TB all over the world and live far from cities or medical centers.