Founder of GWIIN – Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network: An organization that spotlights and supports women inventors.
In 1998, Bola decided to go for a free international inventors fair since she was expecting her 4th child and was not working at the time. Where she noticed that there was diversity in terms of the attendees and people at the booths; in talking to the people there, she found that though the inventors were male, the women were either wives, sisters or partners. Seeing this chasm, she set out to find the one woman inventor. She never found one on that day in the UK. She went to the organizers and asked if they could point one out. They had never had one as part of the inventors fair and told here that if she found one, she should contact them. She then did a program on BBC, seeking out women inventors. She got an overwhelming response to her appeal.
On Africa:-She did not begin here first, she started in Asia PAC,finding, supporting and recognizing the women inventors there. For Africa she started with visiting universities. Whenever she asked, people could barely name 3 women inventors. She discovered that there was a dearth of information on African women inventors in current textbooks. The African inventors who were featured were written about by Americans. She also found that it wasn’t just African women inventors, it was about women inventors as a whole not being acknowledged.
She faced lots of naysayers, wondering if she had this right when she wanted to have a conference for women innovators. In 2005 the first Pan African conference for women innovators was held – it was clear she was on to something because every seat was taken. Her work continues since, with a centre for innovation in Africa being opened in December. She noted something that we all know in Africa, women are very active participants in the marketplace, they are traders and sellers.She also gave examples of people honored by her organization: – Simi Bola who made a new wig that had braids, it is now on sale around the world. To see more of the women honored by her org, please click here.
Hers was a very inspiring talk because she exemplifies action. She saw something that wasn’t being done and just got on with making change happen.
Next, there was an excellent 3 minute presentation by Erik Hersman of Afrigadget the slides showcased some of the stories covered by afrigadget team, demonstrating how Africans solve problems every day by making tools and using local materials. The main idea he shared is that – Ingenuity born of necessity. The quotable from him is that **Where others see trash, africa recycles** He presented a soccer ball made of twine and paper bags to Emeka Okafor one of the organizers of TED Global. A wonderful gesture, because as most people may not know, Emeka is the pre-eminent online chronicler of African innovation and business. His blog is Timbuktu Chronicles.
The Next speaker was Dr. Moses Makayoto – Chemical Engineer from Kenya: Africa has stopped talking, its now about action.
Innovations he has been working on :
Bacillus thuringiensis -filth flies control using bio pesticides made out of 100% local materials such as cowdung, molasses and other ingredients.
Artemisinin – Drug for malaria, there is a $10 million plant in Nairobi processing artemisinin. It is possible that he is referring to the plant mentioned in TED global day 1.
“sungrupot”- Nutritive immune booster (for AIDS patients) -current research is still going on though it has been patented in Kenya. He pointed out that there are other diseases such as cholera and typhoid that are still killing people and solutions to these issues are still needed.
Quotable – There isn’t the notion of African science, science is science – Look at it in the context of science being needed to solve Africa’s problems.
Challenges: Lack of prototype development, lack of intellectual property policy. There is a question of what belongs to who – some herbs are part of tribal heritage. Not much R&D is done locally. There is also a lack of marketing skills for new products. There is also a myth that innovations are too complex and thus cannot be tackled.
The choices for kenyan scientists are often to publish or perish, patent or perish , produce or perish. In the African context the last option of producing or perishing is even more pronounce because the diseases mentioned above do cost lives every day.
The way forward
- R&D must go on but include prototype dev and reverse engineering to see if the product can be made locally.
- Patent filing for existing science
- Incubation systems for innovative ideas Market driven tech should be emphasized in order to realise the real market ROI that is more empowering than AID.
- Africa must industrialize in whole not in part.
Q:Any clinical trials [for Arteminisin based drugs]?
A: Yes the work will be published soon.
Short Break: Video of making of CAN TV – Keita Moussa of Zirasun. Check out mali.geekcorps.org
Joe FOSS for dev of software for use in hospitals and as a mode of secure communication between patient and doctor. Dr. Seyi Olesola: Healthcare in Africa: Beyond malaria and Aids. He left from the diaspora and moved to the Nigeria to work there. For many common ailments like trauma, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, people go to hospitals or dispensaries that are are ill equipped. A simple thing like an x ray can be a challenge. He showed pictures of an earthen floor and old equipment like a very old anesthisiology machine. It really does look like a relic.Dr. Oyesola pointed out that the machines are still in use currently. Its a real challenge to do open heart surgery in Nigeria. From the pics, it doesnt seem like this is possible at all because of old equipment. He showed slides of an open heart surgery where they had to ship in everything, and he had to be inventive to prop up a patient by sliding a plastic chair under the matress, buttressing the top part of the mattress to create a makeshift reclined hospital bed. The invention: Hospital in a box. Its is a wheeled piece of equipment that looks like a steel cupboard with sliding cabinets. It has a defibrillator a light and can be charged using a truck battery or a solar panel. He didnt spend too much time on the invention itself, but pointed out that there is more to be done in Healthcare in Africa.
William Kamkwamba, previously featured on afrigadget – Home made wind mill. Download his powerpoint presentation here.
Mohammed Bah Abba – Sahel region south of sahara: Preserving fruit using evaporation of water from sand that creates a cooling effect.