African research labs and innovation hubs are offering funding and support for tech solutions aimed at curbing the spread and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as the virus outbreak worsens in the region.
Lagos-based innovation incubator Co-Creation Hub this week said it was offering funding, research and design support for projects related to the Coronavirus outbreak covering last-mile communication, support for the infected and the most vulnerable, local production of essential medical supplies and support for disrupted food supply-chains, an open application on its website reads.
Cc-Hub, which also owns iHub in Kenya, will be providing $5,000 to $100,000 funding blocks to companies with related projects as well as engineering support and resources from its Design Lab in Kigali. Prospective projects can be focused on “a particular African country, the African continent or the world at large,” the company said.
VC firm Ventures Platform has also offered to provide workspace, mentorship and $1,000 in grant for the first 5 projects on coronavirus approved by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control.
This is in line with a call by Co-founder Kola Aina on “all Nigerian Hackers, developers, enthusiasts & founders” to support efforts by the NCDC to respond to the pandemic. Interested applicants are to explain the impact of the suggested solution on the pandemic and how quickly it can be deployed.
Across the sub-region, a partnership between a Dakar-based research lab, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, and a British company is working towards making a $1 kit that can conduct a coronavirus test in 10 minutes.
The kit, to be manufactured in Senegal, will be ready in June, reports say. Should the outbreak remain till then, it would help reduce the time required to diagnose the virus.
Contribution from the tech community is expected to go a long way in responding to the urgent need of containing the coronavirus outbreak. Africa is seen as less prepared than other regions in dealing with an outbreak of the virus that has spread from China to over 100 countries, infected nearly 200,000, killed more than 6,000 and weakened the global economy. There are currently over 480 confirmed cases across 33 African countries.
In addition to innovation incubators and venture firms, other tech players on the continent are helping to respond to the coronavirus. E-commerce giant Jumia has a partnership with global health products manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser to make hygiene products more accessible and affordable to consumers in all of the 8 markets it operates in Africa.
Kenya, along with Ghana, is turning to its mobile-money operators – Safaricom and Airtel – to reduce the chances of the virus spreading further. Both companies waived transaction fees on their services this week to increase digital-payments use and lower the risk of spreading the COVID-19 through physical handling of cash.