Covid crisis drives Kenya’s innovation

Source: Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Wednesday, 11 Arpil 2020 | Written by: Margaret Kalekye/Sarafia Robi

The coronavirus crisis has presented great opportunities with people thinking fast and developing new technologies in response to the pandemic.

Kenya which has been relying on international manufacturers for most of its needs has embraced local innovations that have put the country on the world map.

As global medical equipment companies struggle to satisfy demand for ventilators, a group of 16 students drawn from Kenyatta University have developed a prototype ventilator with a span of seven days.

Once approved by the government, the students will be able to produce up to 50 ventilators to boost the current number in the country which stands at 540.

Ventilators are designed to take over the body’s breathing process when an infection has compromised the lung’s capacity giving the patient time to fight off the disease and recover.

Governments across the globe have ordered thousands of ventilators to help ease the pressure on hospitals caused by the corona virus crisis.

On Saturday, Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina and Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi launched the prototype.

“Universities should endeavor to promote the adoption and application of scientific knowledge and information to become useful to all the Kenyans unreservedly” said the CS.

She further encourages students to engage in more research and innovations to help our country to be self-reliant in matters technology.

According to the students, drawn from the faculties of Engineering, Medicine, Pharmacy and Nursing, it took them seven days to assemble the prototype with material acquired locally.

At the moment, the country has only 540 ventilators catering for a similar number of ICU beds in both public and private hospitals.

Testing kits

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has commended Kenyan laboratory technologists at Kenya Medical Research Institute for developing local testing kit for Covid-19.

The automated modern testing kits can test up to 35000 samples in 24 hours. Kenya’s testing capacity is currently at an average of 600 tests per day.

Face masks

Face masks and PPEs are being manufactured locally. Kitui County Textile Centre (Kicotec) has been turned into a 24-hour production house where 30,000 pieces of masks are being produced in a day. Eldoret-based Rivatex is also running mass production of face masks.

Manufacturers have proven that when faced with challenges they can yield innovative results.