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The Impact of COVID-19 on African Tech Ecosystem

Izunna Okpala

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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) resulted in mass production shutdowns and supply chain disruptions due to port closures in China, creating global ripple effects in a unprecedented “twin supply-demand shock” across all the economic sectors.

More recently, it is stated that the number of cases in China is slowing down, raising hopes that it will eventually hit a peak and be regulated. Nevertheless, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported in early March that “annual global GDP growth is expected to decline to 2.4 per cent in 2020 as a whole, from an already sluggish 2.9 per cent in 2019, with growth likely even negative in the first quarter of 2020,” with financial markets plummeting in the days that follow.

There is a high degree of uncertainty about the spread of COVID-19 and its effects on Africa is expected to be significant, given the exposure of the continent to China. Cases in Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia have been registered as yet. When there is a major COVID-19 outbreak in Africa it could already overwhelm the region’s poor health-care systems.

Coronavirus outbreak would have a downside risk for short-term growth for sub-Saharan African economies, according to ratings agency Fitch, particularly in Ghana, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, Gabon, and Nigeria – all countries that export large amounts of commodities to China.

Last year, Africa’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications sector was expected to draw high-value investments, with many telecommunications firms looking to develop infrastructure as well as the booming e-commerce market showing potential for regional M&A. The ambiguity surrounding COVID-19, however, means that anticipated investment could be delayed as tech investors anticipate volatility and recover from the short-term impacts.

Many major technology multinationals have said that the effects of lower demand for their goods in China and the effect of breaks in the supply chain of materials required to produce their goods have negatively impacted their companies. Some have been forced to shut down shops, warehouses, production facilities and offices and let workers work from home. Labor-intensive industries are the most affected by the virus and this has impacted planned ventures, production and releases of goods in this market. It is likely to have a ripple effect in Africa and also contribute to project delays.

It is expected that if people stop going to the cinemas for fear of picking up the virus, leave the way open for mainstream broadcasters and live streaming services to enjoy staying at home film and television watchers, the global theater industry will suffer. It would be important to see what improvements film studios are making to overcome this challenge. One alternative could be using on-demand transactional video platforms for new releases. Whatever methods are introduced, the effect is likely to disrupt the conventional dependence on theaters as the first release window and, eventually, the way the film distribution industry does business could be changed forever as a result.

Wuhan in China is the world’s largest manufacturer of optical fibers and cables, accounting for a quarter of the global market. A break in the supply chain for these goods could impact the African telecommunications industry and Africa’s search to introduce fourth industrial revolution technology infrastructure. Fiber optic cable is a critical component of high-speed broadband, which is important for and implementation of 4IR technology.

When more and more customers ignore public spaces, Nigeria is also expected to see an spike in online shopping. Nigeria banks are also likely to begin testing sites for disaster recovery to ensure continued trading and business continuity where operations are affected by COVID-19 office evacuations.

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COVID-19: An update on the success of Coronavirus treatment

Izunna Okpala

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There is hope in the fight against Covid-19. New evidence now exist in the United States of America supporting this procedure. Physicians in the Kansas City area, including Joe Brewer, Dan Hinthorn and Dr. Jeff Colyer, continue to see a lot of patients and some have shown progress. Hydroxychloroquine has been applied to treatment options by major medical facilities including the University of Washington and Mass General.

In addition, before this, according to a study conducted by French researchers on 80 cases who recovered from the virus within six days of treatment, a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin has been found effective in treating patients with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial and anti-inflammatory medication used to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, although it has been tested against symptoms of the novel coronavirus with some results.

Bahrain is one of the first countries to study hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 medication, having first used the drug on 26 February, two days after the first case of coronavirus was reported.

Countries around the world are increasing access to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, similar compounds that are synthetic versions of quinine, which derive from cinchona trees and have been used to treat malaria for decades.

Considering the urgent therapeutic need to control this disease with efficient and safe medicines, and considering the negligible cost of both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, we believe that this therapeutic approach should be tested urgently by medical practitioners both to prevent the spread of the disease and to treat patients until serious irreversible respiratory complications.

Even now, medical experts are still questioning the use of chloroquine as a drug. Usage of chloroquine for symptomatic treatment of coronavirus has not been licensed by the World Health Organisation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently researching a way to make the drug available for emergency use in the United States, but in a way that gives the government data about whether it is safe and effective.

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Dual Play Strategy by Mastercard

Izunna Okpala

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Mastercard works to branch into management of health care, fintech and supply chain. It’s a unified part of trying to “broaden the scope of what we’re doing and with whom we’re doing it,” said Craig Vosburg, North America’s company president. The latest strategy is based on “Mastercard’s notion of being more than just cards.

Mastercard has launched a number of programs targeted at a wide range of industries and services, including new platforms directed towards the healthcare and fintech sectors and a blockchain-enabled collaboration designed to increase the transparency of the companies’ supply chains.

The initiatives are part of the giant payment services ‘ concentrated effort to “broaden the scope of what we do and with whom we do it,” said Craig Vosburg, North America’s Mastercard president.

This strategy focuses on “Mastercard’s notion of being [ about ] more than just cards “— with Vosburg citing the recent acquisition by the company of European payment services firm Nets among investments aimed at” expanding the means by which we can move money.

A question that comes to bear, if you look deeper are:
* Is Mastercard working to have a dual play that generates transaction volumes?
* Those healthcare and supply chain management businesses, who would deliver them?

Usually, thriving digital products are both Products and platforms. Construction of modern digital products without having a moat through platforms would be hopeless. Ironically, the largest digital ICT providers have dual plays in their business models: if Amazon is decimating most brick-and-mortar stores, offering their cloud services will attract more online. When Alibaba invites you to its marketplace sites, you have surely signed up for its (partly affiliated) payment processing solutions (Alipay) which commissions.

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Top Health Care Apps Made By Africans

Izunna Okpala

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Leading academics, CIOs, regulators, NGOs, service providers, and EduTech entrepreneurs will convene at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg on the 17th of March 2016 for the upcoming 2016 Education Innovation Summit.

Healthcare and technology executives will convene at the Protea Fire & Ice Hotel in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, today for the African Innovator Healthcare Summit. The Summit will address the theme – “Transforming Healthcare with Technology.”

Africa is constantly evolving, and with it so is the healthcare and technology sector.

From location based mobile applications that allow users to find the closest health center… to identifying counterfeit medication, We’ve has highlighted some of the top healthcare apps for Africa below.

Top Health Care Apps

Find-A-Med
Featured in the IT News Africa top mobile apps made in Africa feature, Find-A-Med is a location based mobile application that allows users to find the closest health center. Additionally, the app also stores your basic health information in case of an emergency. The app aims to make all healthcare facilities across Nigeria accessible and searchable from a mobile device.

Kids First Aid
As Africa is a connected continent, first aid tips are at the tap of an app. The Kids First Aid app gives emergency information to parents and teachers when they need it- an indispensable app for when you are travelling in a place where perhaps you don’t speak the language or when help is not easily reachable. The app was built in South Africa and won the 2013 MTN Business App award for best windows app.

Hello Doctor
Hello Doctor provides free essential healthcare information that is updated on a daily basis. The app also provide access to healthcare advice, answers to health-related questions in live group chat forums, confidential one-on-one text conversation with a doctor, and the ability to receive a call back from a doctor within 60 minutes.

The app is currently available in 10 African countries and features various language options. Additionally, Hello Doctor has been designed  to work with most mobile phone models. Download Hello Doctor from the official website

MomConnect
MomConnect is a National Department of Health (NDoH) initiative to use cellphone SMS technology to register every pregnant woman in South Africa. The app is essentially managed by the Department of Health with funds provided by the United States government and Johnson & Johnson. Once registered ,the system will send each mother messages to support her and her baby during the course of her pregnancy, childbirth and up to the child’s first birthday.

According to the NDoH, MomConnect aims to strengthen demand and accountability of Maternal and Child Health services in order to improve access, coverage and quality of care for mothers and their children in the community. Visit the official website here.

Smart Health App
The Smart Health App focuses on providing accurate baseline information resource on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. The app is currently available in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Ghana, and Senegal.

Additionally, future releases will include information on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Nutrition, Hygiene, Non-communicable diseases. The app also features a range of language options, which includes: English, French, Portuguese and Swahili. Download the Smart Health App here.

Matibabu
Developed in Uganda by team Code8, Matibabu is a smartphone app that assists patients to diagnose malaria without providing a blood sample. Using a custom-made piece of hardware (matiscope), custom made piece of hardware which consists of a red LED and a light sensor. A finger is inserted into the device to diagnose and the results are viewed via a smartphone. Visit the official website here.

MedAfrica
MedAfrica was launched by Kenyan developers, Shimba Technologies. According to the developers, MedAfrica essentially acts as a clinic in your pocket. The app can be used to diagnose and monitor symptoms caused by diseases.

Additionally, the app also provides the user with a directory of doctors and hospitals close by as well as provides information on potential treatment for diseases. To add to the features the app can also be used to identify counterfeit medication and a direct a user to the nearest doctor or hospital. Download the app here.

DrBridge
Residents in Egypt can use the DrBridge in order to make appointments with a doctor online via Vezeeta. Alternatively, doctors can use the very same app to obtain a patients’ medical records. The records are stored online, for easy access by the doctor. Visit the official website here.

Ubenwa
Charles Onu is the principal innovator behind Ubenwa, a digital health initiative which applies machine learning and mobile technology to provide portable, affordable, and reliable diagnosis of birth asphyxia.

mPedigree
As mentioned by Zuby Onwuta who is the CEO ThinkandZoom, mPedigree is a phone-based anti-counterfeit ICT software application – which allows users to verify the authenticity of medication. According to the app developer, this is done for free by text-messaging a unique code found on the product to a universal number. The system helps to tackle the problem of counterfeit medicine by partnering with different pharmaceutical to create a short code on the package of products.

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