The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) has encouraged African countries to leverage on domestic technology to capacitate themselves in the on-going fight against coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the regional UN Commission with 53 African member states said the global scramble for limited resources requires nations to boost their local response capacity.
“Africa traditionally depends on external supplies of medical equipment, diagnostic reagents and tools, protective gear and medicines. With a global scramble for limited medical supplies, countries are leveraging domestic technology and innovation capabilities, harnessing and stimulating the entrepreneurial talent to respond to the challenges posed by Covid-19 and beyond,” said Uneca.
The continental UN Commission is therefore organising the first virtual Africa Innovation and Investment Forum 2020 and Innovation in Government for Covid-19, both set for 15 to19 June.
“The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and its partners are pleased to announce the launch of the Covid-19 Innovation Challenge. This will focus on Africa innovation and investment particularly for Covid-19 and Innovation in Government for Covid-19. Both challenges are part of efforts to boost national capacity to respond, and is thus open to all researchers, firms, public and private development agencies, government leaders, innovators, youths and development partners,” Uneca said.
The five-day virtual forum will bring together innovators, investors, business leaders and government officials from across Africa and beyond to explore investment and market needs, identify business opportunities and innovations to support.
Focus will be on affordable rapid testing, enhancing medical devices and personal protection gear design and fabrication, alternative tools for efficient and effective contact tracing and isolation, as well as development and production of potential drugs and vaccines in Africa.
It would also focus on government-led innovation to ensure key services are delivered safely. According to Uneca, the forum is inspired by the need to protect the hard-earned health, economic and social development gains that Africa has registered since 2000, which are under threat from the novel coronavirus.
It comes after realisation that Covid-19 has overrun well-resourced healthcare systems of some developed and developing countries and several organisations, including World Health Organisation, which has implored African countries to boost their healthcare capabilities to meet the impending surge in infections.
Covid-19 has highlighted importance of public-private sector agencies and academia collaboration to bring innovations that can save lives.
Registration is in progress with 5 June being the deadline, the commission said. A virtual youth innovators competition and design boot camp with a focus on Covid-19 will run concurrently, and top innovations in different categories will be selected to get funding from government, investors and potential partners. During the 6th Session of the Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD) held in Victoria Falls in February, it was noted that youth innovation is key to the future of the continent.