How Malawi Technology is teaching UK Children

This is a continuation to the previous post, Technology helping students in Malawi, where the technology used to teach children in Malawi, is helping children in the  United Kingdom (UK). Educators found out that the apps used to teach primary school children in Malawi was helpful to improve the education of children in the UK. Talk about globalization!

Technology helping students in Malawi

I really like the way technology is revolutionizing lives across the globe. Today, we will talk about education in Malawi. Actually, this could be any school in many African countries, where teachers very often have 60-80 students in their classrooms. So it is hard to control the students, and let’s face it, it is hard for the teacher to assess their students’ learning and to grade homework. The video below shows how technology is helping teachers in Malawi ensure proper learning of English, mathematics, and Chichewa. Enjoy!

Homo Naledi: New Species in the Human Lineage

A reconstruction of Homo naledi's face by paleoartist John Gurche (Source: National Geographic)
A reconstruction of Homo naledi’s face by paleoartist John Gurche (Source: National Geographic)

I know this is old news, but I had to go back to the discovery of the Homo naledi a few months ago. For starters, the word naledi means “star” in the Sotho language, and comes from the name of the Dinaledi chamber (chamber of stars) of the Rising Star cave system where the fossils were found. South African researchers unveiled Homo naledi last September after discovering the remains of 15 individuals in the Rising Star Cave near Johannesburg. The bones have yet to be dated, making it hard to evaluate where the Homo naledi would fit within the history of the human kind. However, a few information have been gathered.

Homo naledi skeletal specimen (Source: Wikipedia)
Homo naledi skeletal specimen (Source: Wikipedia)

Homo naledi was small and slender with a tiny brain compared to modern humans, but with a human-like skull. The adult males stood at about 150 cm (5 ft) tall, with the females a little shorter. The physical characteristics of H. naledi are described as having traits similar to the genus Australopithecus, mixed with traits more characteristic of the genus Homo, and traits not known in other hominin species. From the first excavations, the hand and feet bones looked unusual, bearing the hallmarks of a creature that made and used stone tools, was an accomplished climber, and stood upright. Studies on the wrist and thumb show that Homo naledi had a powerful grasp.

Until further dating, many questions arise: where does the homo naledi fit in the human evolution? How long ago did the species emerge, and did it live in parallel with other species, in isolation? How related is it to the Homo erectus? Could the Homo naledi and the Home erectus ever have lived in the same era? With these findings in South Africa, it seems that we, humans, are just scratching the surface of so much mystery and know so little! There is so much to learn, and so much to uncover! (Just a parenthesis: as a scientist, I am just stupefied that the people in the video below would touch these fossils with bare hands… and wear no gloves… come’ on this is a million years old specimen!)

Made in Togo: A 3D Printer from e-waste

3D printer made by Afate Gnikou (Source:
Afate Gnikou and his 3D printer (Source:

Just as almost everywhere else in the world, 3D printing offers the possibility of revolutionizing entire industries. In Africa, the 3D printer could bring a new industrial revolution, allowing goods to be made with less dependence on imported commodities, at a cheaper rate, and creating jobs locally. For the past three years, in Lomé, the capital of Togo, members of a small and innovative community have been building 3D printers. The machines are now part of an ambitious education program.


In Lomé, piles of discarded computers, printers and scanners from industrialized countries accumulate in trash dumps. Afate Gnikou, a system’s developer, has found a place to work on his invention in a group of like-minded computer-lovers. It is called WoeLab; enjoy. BBC also did a video about it.


Meet the Kantanka: a 4×4 AWD Made in Ghana by Ghanaians for Ghanaians

Kantanka Cars (GhanaOnline)
Kantanka Cars (GhanaOnline)

I came across a video of the Kantanka, a 4×4 All-Wheel Drive made in Ghana by Ghanaians for Ghanaians, on BBC. The car is the brainchild of Dr. Kwadwo Safo, a Ghanaian who always dreamt of making cars and planes in Ghana. He wanted to address the local needs, and demonstrate that it was possible for Africans to design and engineer their own cars for their own roads. Move over Toyota, Honda, Ford, Mercedes, and meet the Kantanka. We do hope that these cars will be solicited by Ghanaians themselves, that they will meet the safety standard, and be a breath of fresh air adapted to their roads and needs. The car is engineless and “green”. The founder’s son, Kwadwo Safo Jr., said, “the non-engine vehicle does not rely on a combustion engine to move, but an electric motor powered by rechargeable batteries. The batteries can be recharged with solar energy or electricity. As you drive the car on the road, it converts the energy from the sun into mechanical energy which powers the car.”

Apart from the lights and tires, everything is done and assembled by local people. The police just bought a few vehicles. The big question will be: does it meet international safety standards? Will Ghanaians be sold by it? Read the article on Forbes and Al-Jazeera, and watch the video on BBC. Enjoy Ghana’s first car, made in Ghana by Ghanaians for Ghanaians!

Tanzanian low-cost water filter wins major innovation prize

water_3The first UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering ‘Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation‘ was awarded to Tanzanian chemical engineer Askwar Hilonga for his water filter. His filter uses nanotechnology and sand to clean water; it adsorbs anything from copper and fluoride to bacteria, viruses and pesticides.

Hilonga’s invention should help the 70% of households in Tanzania that do not have clean drinking water. This is a very important invention in a world where clean water is becoming rare, whether in developed countries where their water is spoiled by major pollution from oil or heavy elements such as uranium or radium, or in developing countries where water may have been soiled by big oil, or simply not clean. Moreover, his invention will provide a low-cost alternative to water filtering.

The prize is worth  £25,000 ($38,348). Congratulations to Dr. Askwar Hilonga, and don’t forget to read the article on BBC.

Ugandan Doctor helps Give Newborns a Breath of Fresh AIR

Dr. Santorino Data demonstrating the device in Uganda (AIR Project)
Dr. Santorino Data demonstrating the device in Uganda (AIR Project)

What is the wish of any mother who has just given birth to a baby, after lengthy hours of labor? To hear that child cry while taking his/her first breath of air. Any parent, and medical staff present, anxiously awaits for that child’s first cry, and sometimes the child needs help with that.  It is said that 10 million babies per year do not breathe immediately, while 6 million babies require basic neonatal resuscitation, and 3 million do not survive past their first day of life, and at least 1 million die each year due to breathing issues. Well, a doctor in Uganda, Dr. Santorino Data, has created the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR), an inexpensive add-on device used to improve emergency ventilation, to help newborn babies who are having difficulty taking their first breath. The device monitors manual ventilation to provide real-time feedback on ventilation technique/quality and common errors such as leakage between the face and mask, airway blockage and incorrect pace or volume. This will give instant feedback to the health workers who are helping the child breathe, and will allow them to correct any mistakes instantly.

The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) - (AIR Project)
The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) – (AIR Project/ MIT D-Lab)

Well, check out this article on BBC which highlights Dr. Data’s work, and his partnership with a team of medical doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital to improve the chances for more newborns around the globe to take their first breath of fresh AIR.

Papyrus Ebers: One of the World’s Oldest Medical Document

Ebers Papyrus - remedy of cancer
Ebers Papyrus – remedy for cancer

Today, we will be talking about the Papyrus Ebers or Ebers Papyrus, which is among the oldest and most important medical papyri of Ancient Egypt and of the world. This papyrus is a medical papyrus of herbal knowledge, and dates back to c. 1550 BC. It is believed to have been copied from earlier texts. It is 110-page scroll, and is about 20 m long. It is among the world’s oldest preserved medical documents.

From c. 33rd century BC until Persian invasion in 525 BC, Egyptian medicine remained one of the world’s most advanced, and was used in some non-invasive surgery, setting of bones, and an extensive set of pharmacopeia. Even Homer of the Odyssey recognized this when he said, “In Egypt, the men are more skilled in medicine than any of human kind” and “the Egyptians were skilled in medicine more than any other art“.

Georg Ebers
Georg Ebers

The Papyrus Ebers is one of the oldest medical papyri still well-preserved. It was given the name Ebers, after the man who purchased it in Luxor (Thebes) in the winter of 1873-74, Georg Ebers, a German Egyptologist and novelist. It is written in hieratic Egyptian writing and preserves the most voluminous record of ancient Egyptian medicine known. It contains about 700 magical formulas and remedies, for things such as asthma, evacuation of belly, bowels, birth control, guinea worms (this remedy is still the standard practice today, over 3500 years later), and even cancer. There is also a chapter titled Book of Hearts, which deals with mental disorders such as depression and dementia.

Ebers Papyrus - remedy for asthma
Ebers Papyrus – remedy for asthma

One of the most common remedies described in the papyrus is ochre, or medicinal clay, which was prescribed for intestinal and eye complaints. Yellow ochre was prescribed as a remedy for urological complaints.

The Papyrus Ebers is currently kept at the Leipzig University‘s library (Ebers was chair of the Egyptology department there) in Germany. If you are in Leipzig, go visit. Please check out the Ancient Egyptian Medicine website, which talks in details not only about the Ebers Papyrus, but also about other famous Papyri such as the Edwin Smith Papyrus (c. 1600 BC), the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus (c. 1800 BC), and herbal remedies, and nutrition of Ancient Egypt.

Une Chimiste dans vos portefeuilles / A Chemist in Your Purse

Mrs Dicoh Mariam Konan, first female chemist of Cote d'Ivoire, on the currency with her pipettes
Mme Dicoh Mariam Konan, 1ere femme chimiste de Cote d’Ivoire, sur la piece de monnaie avec ses burettes

Je suis sûre que si vous êtes de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, et de la zone CFA, vous êtes certainement tombée sur cette pièce de 25FCFA sur laquelle une femme est representée.  Eh bien cette femme-là est la toute première femme chimiste de la Côte d’Ivoire, Mme Konan née Dicoh Mariam.  Elle est gravée sur la pièce de 25f CFA avec une burette de chimiste.

On utilise cette pièce sans même se demander qui est cette personne qui se trouve dessus… ou même ce qu’elle fait, ou ce qu’elle tient en main.
Mme Konan, une brillante chimiste qui a su manier plein de formules chimiques est le genre de personnes dont on doit parler; elle mérite bien plus qu’un prix d’excellence.  C’est un exemple pour toutes les filles de l’Afrique, et du monde entier, parce qu’elle a su briller par son ambition et sa motivation.  Chapeau à elle et à toutes les autres femmes en Afrique qu’on ne nomme pas, car elle est une femme très battante et remarquable.  Un modèle de femme dont on doit se souvenir dans le futur de génération en génération.  Waou… premiere femme chimiste de tout un pays… quel merveilleux exemple de détermination!
Aujourd’hui, Mme Konan est propriétaire de l’espace gastronomique ” La Gorge d’Or,” à Abidjan.  Elle est une fierté pour toute l’Afrique.  Longue vie à cette femme intelligente et nous espèrons en apprendre plus sur toutes les femmes brillantes du continent.
25FCFA coin
25FCFA coin

If you are from West Africa, and from the CFA economic zone, you have probably come across the 25 FCFA coin on which a woman is engraved.  That woman happens to be the first woman chemist of Côte d’Ivoire, Mrs Konan Dicoh Mariam.  She is engraved on the 25 FCFA coin with a burette.

People use this coin without wondering who is on it, or even what she is doing, or even what she is holding.
Mariam Dicoh Konan
Mariam Dicoh Konan

Mrs Konan, a bright chemist who was able to handle a lot of chemistry formulas, is the kind of people we should be talking about; she deserves an excellence prize.  She is an example for all the girls and women of Africa, and the world, because she was able to shine by her ambition and motivation.  I raise my hat to her and all other women who remain unnamed, because she is a strong and remarkable woman.  She is a model who should be remembered in the future by all generations.  Wow… first female chemist of an entire country… such a marvelous example of determination!

Today, Mrs Konan is the owner of a gastronomical space ‘La Gorge d’Or‘ in Abidjan.  She makes all Africans proud.  Long life to this intelligent woman, and we hope to learn more about all the other bright women of the continent.

The African Version of RoboCop

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo

I would like to introduce you to the African version of Robocop, or rather the Congolese version of Robocop.  This is a traffic cop invented by two women engineers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of them is Thérèse Inza.  This cop regulates the traffic, and even gives tickets to the cab drivers, and those who do not want to follow the code of the road. The robot is 100% Congolese, and financed by the Women Technology association, the association of Congolese women engineers.  Its name is “Robot Roulage” in reference to the name given to traffic cops (policier roulage); it is 2.5 m tall, and is fully autonomous, functioning with solar energy.  It was first installed at the Boulevard Lumumba in Kinshasa.  I just loved its Congolese accent… it was just music to my ears.  Enjoy the Congolese RoboCop!