Covid-19 pandemic: Catalyst  for research and innovations This era birthed a diversity of innovations, ranging from medical devices, drugs and healthcare delivery systems to public health communications, e-commerce and online businesses focusing on virtual learning and performance.

Ruth Butaumocho-African Agenda

Covid-19 will go down in the records of history as one of the worst pandemics that upended so many things across the globe.

Millions of people succumbed to the pandemic across the globe, between 2020 and 2022, leaving global leaders grappling for solutions.

It was within the space of grieving and fighting for survival that the world also witnessed several innovations being made within the science and technology sector.

Barely three months into the crisis, it had become clear that the Covid-19 pandemic had already stretched individuals and communities to their limits and had gone beyond.

Something had to be done to serve humanity from a serious catastrophe. It was a case of finding something good out of a bad, macabre situation.

With moral hitting an all-time low across the globe, with even developed countries recording the highest number of deaths daily, human ingenuity endured in the form of innovation to overcome the pandemic-related.

Apart from its direct influence on individual health, the Covid-19 pandemic also had an indirect effect on social, economic, and political institutions, as states and nations battled to insulate its people by coming up with a litany of measures, either as short term solutions or long term initiatives in curtailing the effects of the pandemic.

Since no one, and not even scientists had an idea on how the Covid-19 pandemic would last and the consequential effects it would have, scientists and like-minded professionals would spend hours in laboratories, working on formulas, experiments and tests to come up with vaccines and drugs to subdue the pandemic.

Movement restrictions and resource limits after borders were sealed off to curtail new infections. 

This also required redoubling efforts to conceptualise, create, and implement new ideas, goods, and services with an innovative mind set. 

Restrictive as they were, such difficult conditions spawned new and progressive innovations in the fields of health, pharmaceuticals, energy, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.

This era birthed a diversity of innovations, ranging from medical devices, drugs and healthcare delivery systems to public health communications, e-commerce and online businesses focusing on virtual learning and performance.

Both the private sector and Government dug deeper in their pockets to salvage a dire situation, which was beyond anybody’s comprehension.

Governments even went further in resourcing and investing in innovation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

All these efforts were meant to assist millions of people in navigating the crisis by raising scientific output, extending research and development from all directions.

Like any other country under siege from the pandemic, Zimbabwe invested heavily in science and innovation, a development that spawned a litany of innovations from several institutions across the country. 

It was during this disturbing era that the Harare Institute of Technology unveiled a ventilator unit in response to the pandemic.

Fumigation gadgets, trolley disinfection machines, ventilators and AI powered chatbots were some of the innovations that were made during the Covid-19 era.

Outside the Zimbabwean borders other countries excelled in different areas as they came up with various innovations. 

According to the BBC, most African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda collaborated with technological innovators, leading to a wide range of inventions across the continent.

These inventions include plasma-derived therapy, solar-powered hand washing machines, and other tech solutions to curb the spread of the virus.

Rwanda made five anti-pandemic robots, further contributing to the growing bodies of knowledge that were assembled to tackle Covid-19 head on. 

With the Covid-19 era now beyond everyone, lessons learnt during the pandemic should be the basis of sustenance of existing innovations, while creating a platform to expand existing structures.

What started as mere attempts to move a step farther to salvage a crisis that had been brought by Covid-19, has somewhat created, million dollar industries that leaders will now need to protect and sustain post the pandemic.

Science and technological innovations that dominated the Covid-19 era, attests to Africa’s capability to change the continental landscape through similar initiatives. 

All these innovations should not go to waste, but ought to be put to good use for the benefit of the continent.

Such sentiments were recently echoed by the Ethiopian Minister of Technology, and Innovation Belete Molla at two-day Sixth African Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Forum in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, where he called on African countries to build a more prosperous, just, and sustainable future through investing in science, technology and innovation.

Held ahead of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, the STI Forum was a pre-event organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the African Union Commission and other partners under the theme, “Effective delivery of innovative science and technology solutions to reinforce the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 and eradicate poverty in Africa.”

Ethiopia Minister of Technology and Innovation, Belete Molla said fostering innovation in key sectors like agriculture, clean energy, and healthcare could create jobs, improve livelihoods, and lift millions out of poverty in Africa.

Echoing the same sentiments, deputy executive secretary for programme support at the ECA, Mr Antonio Pedro said Africa must invest in human capital development, research and development (R&D), and in learning how to produce, sell and use emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and genomics that are transforming every aspect of life.

“Technology should advance the well-being of the millions of households, farmers, fishermen, and many others that still use basic tools to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

“Science and technology can play an important role in increasing the efficiency of service delivery to the poor, monitoring living conditions, predicting impending crises in crowded or remote areas and informing decision-making during crises,” said Mr Pedro.

Delegation of the European Union to the African Union and ECA Ambassador, Javier Pérez said science and technology advanced development in societies.

He also said if young people and women were empowered to become the next technology entrepreneurs and innovators, they were likely to trigger transformational change.

“The European Union is investing 279 million Euros in Africa for research and innovation to support both the SDGs and Agenda 2063 for Africa,” said Mr Perez.

Collaborative efforts between African countries would further promote innovations and prepare the continent for unexpected eventualities.

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