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Innovation in Times of Crisis: How a Nigerian Inventor is taking the lead



Crises are always good drivers of innovation and creativity. Mass manufacturing of automobiles, great literatures and several technological inventions were born out of the Spanish Flu which ravaged the world between 1918-1920, the 1957 Asian H2N2 flu led to the invention of antibiotics, mobile apps like Healthmap were built to fight the West African Ebola pandemic of 2014-2016 and several digital innovations have also been invented over the years to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The COVID-19 pandemic that the world is currently confronting is no different. From the use of Robots to minimize coronavirus risk in Rwanda to the production of breathable re-usable masks from recyclable materials by Adidas to social distancing necklaces in Italy to AI-enabled public health mobile applications, the world is yet at the precipice of another boom in innovation.

This time, emerging technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are taking a crucial part of managing the effects and mitigating the COVID-19 crisis.
Nigeria has not taken the backside in this innovation voyage.

A lot of innovative ideas and products have emerged in the past few months, thanks to the various public and private sector agencies like UNICEF, NITDA, NCDC and Ventures Platform who have launched different innovation challenges and Hackathons to combat the Pandemic.

Last week, I logged on to Twitter as usual and saw a tweet that caught my attention – a Nigerian Engineer Abraham Abiodun had invented a walkthrough disinfection machine to help in the fight against COVID-19. I got curious and sent a private message to the originator of the tweet @dami_abraham to get more details. Dami thereafter connected me to the Engineer who happened to be her husband. I then put a call through to Abraham to get further clarifying details about his innovative invention for the purpose of this article.

The Walkthrough Disinfection Machine
The walkthrough disinfection machine invented by this Nigerian Engineer minimizes and controls the spread of the coronavirus. It can serve as a COVID-19 prevention screening point at the entrance of public places. I got curious about the technology behind the invention and asked Abraham to explain it in a lay man’s term.

According to Abraham, a metallurgical and materials engineering graduate from the University of Lagos, the machine contains a non-contact body temperature reader that gives off an alarm for high body temperatures and an automatic hand sanitizer dispenser.

“There’s a sanitizer spray that is automatically activated when a person enters the chamber. The sanitizer liquid is carefully prepared to perfectly suit all types of skin. It’s not alcohol-based to eliminate the risk of fire hazard and it’s not chlorine-based to eliminate bleaching cloth or irritate the skin” he explained.

I asked him about the safety of the disinfectant liquid. He explained that the disinfectant liquid is 100% safe and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and it can effectively kill coronavirus and other viruses, bacteria, fungi and other germs. The machine also has an automatic refilling system that refills when the liquid is finished. On the power source, he says the machine uses a common domestic single-phase electricity and a plug and play low energy consumption.

The disinfection machine is actually not a new invention, some companies in India and China have made prototypes of this machine. However, what stands this out is the disinfectant liquid which is specially formulated to contain an essence that is known to cure the common cold when inhaled and has a soothing effect on the skin.

There is also an automatic refill system that directly supplies the feed from a bigger reserve to avoid frequent refills.
“Most other disinfectant liquids are either chloride-based which has some carcinogenic effect or alcohol-based which has the risk of a fire hazard because of the high alcohol content. Furthermore, the sanitizer liquid reserve is made to last a long time as long as 3 to 4 months depending on the frequency of usage” Abraham says.

Support for Nigerian Innovators
Responsive and decisive leadership is needed in the fight against COVID-19. Despite the imminent economic hardships that will result from the pandemic, Africa innovators will play a critical role in the fight against the pandemic and the ultimate recovery of the continent’s economy.

If we are to flatten the curve, then all hands must be on deck to support Nigerian innovators like Abraham who are pushing out great ideas to combat the deadly pandemic. Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa must explore the potentials and capabilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to fight COVID-19.

Dayo Ibitoye is a Development Communications and Public Policy Specialist. He tweets at @dayoibitoye


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