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Zim tech start-up wins US$250,000 Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa

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By UK Correspondent


ZIMBABWEAN tech start-up Vaxiglobal was recently named among the first winners of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa which attracted 330 applicants from 38 countries across the continent.

The other two winners of the award which comes with an endowment of 250,000 Euros (US$250,000) for each of the three winners, were from Kenya and Nigeria.

Vaxiglobal was co-founded by Dr Integrity Mchechesi, a medical doctor and public healthcare innovator together with physiotherapist and public health expert Tsitsi Eunice Sifiyali.

The winners were announced Monday in Austria at the Austrian Academy of Sciences by Chancellery Minister Karoline Edtstadler and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

Vaxiglobal uses contactless biometrics to minimise waste of immunisation resources, improve data quality with open standards and enable the scale-up of immunisation campaigns in African countries.

The company’s solution uses a mobile phone to scan patients’ faces and create digital certificates in a cloud.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company worked with laboratories, airlines and technology companies to build up a safe and approved digital verification system for travellers’ immunisation.

“It’s often impossible for busy border authorities to verify the names of doctors, and the supposed location where vaccinations occurred, by phone or email,” said Dr Mchechesi back in 2020.

“After vaccination, the laboratories create a digital record in our system. The traveller gets a QR code on a mobile app or on paper, which is instantly verified by the border authorities, who can see where they got the vaccine and who gave it to them, as well as the batch number of the vaccine, which protects the authenticity of each and every vaccine.”

Currently, some 320,000 people are registered and during the Covid 19 pandemic, the company verified 1.1 million vaccine doses in a pilot project.

Since its inception in 2019, Vaxiglobal has built relationships with the ministries of health of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The late Ghanaian diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan

The prize is named after Kofi Atta Annan (1938-2018), a Ghanaian diplomat, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former United Nations Secretary General.

With its focus on rapid digitalisation on the African continent, the award is aimed at contributing to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal “Health and Wellbeing”.

“It is important that we continue to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Kofi Annan Award is a particularly important initiative for this,” said Austrian Federal Minister Karoline Edtstadler, who is responsible for SDG coordination.

“The 330 applications submitted show that there are numerous innovative, sustainable and creative ideas for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Above all, they also demonstrate the great entrepreneurial potential on the African continent, which must be harnessed,”

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg added: “There is war in Europe again. The accompanying shock waves are also leaving deep scars on the African continent.

“Much of the progress we have made together in recent years in the field of development and health care is in danger of being wiped out.

“Added to this is the Russian blockade of food exports, which could develop into a humanitarian crisis, especially in North African states.

“The projects awarded today counter Putin’s cynicism with creative and innovative solutions.”

Kenyan winner myPaddi by MOBicure gives young people in Africa discreet access to sexual health. The app for web and mobile phone provides support in cases of sexual violence, avoiding teenage pregnancies or HIV infections.

Nigeria-based Flare Emergency Response provides uses a cloud-based solution to provide relief. Since its founding in 2016, Flare has saved more than 10,000 acute patients and, with its network, helped 4,000 babies to be born with optimal care in hospital.