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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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These telemedicine companies are transforming the way doctors will treat patients in the future.

Izunna Okpala

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Telemedicine exploded during the pandemic, after years of steadily gaining popularity. Companies are now capitalizing on this momentum to bring in the next wave of remote health, expanding beyond simple doctor consultations to a high-tech world of healthcare access without ever leaving the house.

Dr. John Batsis, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, remarked that the pandemic “actually promoted new techniques for remote monitoring, production, and development of devices.” “Wherever there is a customer need, there will be startups, equity, and businesses attempting to meet those requirements.”

Tyto Care, an on-demand medical exam company that aspires to duplicate in-person visits with home medical kits, is one company reconsidering televisits. Dedi Gilad, the company’s CEO and co-founder, came up with the idea eight years ago while his daughter was suffering from recurrent ear and throat infections.

Meanwhile, Sanford Health in the Midwest, the country’s largest rural health care organization, has adopted a similar strategy. Rather of adapting devices for remote usage, doctors taught patients how to record their results at home using the same tools they used during in-person appointments.

According to Sanford Health, “home monitoring kits” containing a fetal ultrasound monitor and a blood pressure cuff were distributed to patients with low-risk pregnancies, allowing women to use virtual care for nearly a third of their prenatal care appointments during the pandemic.

Other telemedicine startups, such as Kiira in Los Angeles, are focusing on increasing access to underprivileged areas. The company’s virtual care app, which links women to primary care providers, OB-GYNs, mental health experts, and more through phone, video, and chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, aims to bridge the healthcare gap for women in college, particularly women of color.

Historically, black and brown people have faced numerous impediments to healthcare, including fees, access to care, and even access to clinicians of color. Students are frequently hesitant to enter because they do not see a provider who looks like them…. One of the things that has been absent for a long time is the ability to see someone who you can relate to and speak with a provider from the comfort of your own home.

Virtual visits can be conducted, prescriptions can be written, and lab tests can be ordered using the app. Kiira’s monthly fee is covered by colleges, so students don’t have to pay for it. It presently serves four universities and approximately 3,000 students, with ambitions to grow to 22,000 students later this year.

Spora Heath, another affordable telemedicine startup, focuses on offering a primary care network for African-Americans. The $10-per-month service compels its physicians, 90 percent of whom are persons of color, to complete “culture-competence training” and workshops in order to better understand and support the communities they serve.

These technologies are going to be integrally important in managing patient’s health now and in the future.

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Weight loss-related adverts are no longer allowed on Pinterest – Pinterest CEO

Izunna Okpala

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Pinterest stated on Thursday that all weight-loss adverts will be removed from its site, in an effort to prohibit content that promotes unhealthy or disordered eating patterns.

Ads containing language or visuals that promote or degrade particular body types will also be prohibited, according to the bookmarking site.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year, there has been a dramatic spike in harmful eating patterns and eating disorders in young people,” Pinterest (PINS) stated in a statement, citing data from the National Eating Disorders Association.

The new policy will take effect on Thursday. The issue for platforms, as with any online content moderation policies, is usually not so much in establishing the rule as it is in enforcing it and ensuring that no one breaks it.

While Pinterest is now widely regarded as a happy place on the internet, it used to be plagued by content that encouraged potentially hazardous diet and lifestyle practices, also described as “thinspiration,” “thinspo,” or “pro-anorexia.” Pinterest prohibited similar content in 2012, but in the years afterwards, pro-eating disorder content has been discovered on the platform.

The company announced on Thursday that it had already banned some weight-loss-related ads, including those with before-and-after photographs, weight-loss medications or procedures, and “body shaming.”

However, its new policy aims to go even further by prohibiting all weight-loss-related language and images, including testimonials about weight reduction or weight-loss products, as well as allusions to BMI or equivalent indices. Pinterest claims to be the “only big platform” that does not allow such adverts.

“We encourage others in the industry to follow suit and admit, once and for all, that one-size-fits-all doesn’t exist,” the company added.
Pinterest will continue to allow ads promoting “healthy lifestyles” or fitness products and services as long as they do not promote weight loss, according to the business. The policy was created with the help of the National Eating Disorders Association.

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A conference on blockchain and health is scheduled to be held at the Africa Blockchain Developers Call.

Izunna Okpala

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The Africa Blockchain Developers Call (ABDC) Pan-African Bootcamp on blockchain technology has declared its intention to hold a weekend conference on incorporating blockchain technology into Africa’s health sector.

In an attempt to execute comprehensive blockchain training sessions and promote the implementation of specially designed applications for different sectors in Africa, the Bootcamp, officially launched on 5 September, has taken on a host of African developers.

The Bootcamp also features virtual weekend conferences on many use-cases for blockchain. These conferences are aimed at encouraging creative and comprehensive discussions on the implementation of blockchain technology in Africa, including platform presentations by businesses and panel sessions on many Blockchain issues. The first meeting, focusing on Blockchain in Finance, took place on September 5. It featured a keynote speech given by Professor Anicia Peters, University of Namibia Pro-Vice Chancellor for Science, Innovation and Development.

The next conference, scheduled to take place on October 3rd, will focus on the theme: Blockchain in Health. The keynote speech will be given by Arnab Paul, President of the Kolkata Chapter in India. Several organizations and startups will also give platform presentations via their representatives based on medical use cases for blockchain technology.

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