Bloodless malaria test wins Africa Prize

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africa prize winner
Brian Gitta - Image provided

A group of Ugandan software engineers have developed a device which tests for malaria without drawing blood. Called Matibabu ( ‘medical centre’ in Swahili), the device is clipped onto a patient’s finger whereafter a red beam of light is shone through the user’s finger where it detects changes in the shape, colour and concentration of red blood cells. Results are available within just one minute on a mobile phone that is linked to the device.

Brian Gitta and his team won this year’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation with their device. Gitta, the youngest winner to date at 24, received the first prize of UK £25,000 (124 million Ugandan shillings) at an awards ceremony in Nairobi on June 13. He was one of four finalists. “We are very proud of this year’s winner. It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development – in this case by improving healthcare,” said Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize judge. “Matibabu is simply a gamechanger.”

Gitta and his team decided to develop the device after missing lectures, having had malaria several times. He and fellow students at Makerere University in Uguanda first started developing their idea in 2013.

Matibabu is currently undergoing testing in partnership with a national hospital in Uganda, and is sourcing suppliers for the sensitive magnetic and laser components required to scale up production of the low-cost, reusable device.

Launched in 2014, Africa Prize provides a unique package of support, including funding, comprehensive business training, bespoke mentoring and access to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s network of high profile, experienced engineers and experts.

The three runners up, each winning £10,000, are Collins Saguru, a Zimbabwean working in South Africa, for AltMet, a low-cost, environmentally friendly method for recovering precious metals from car parts. Ifediora Ugochukwu from Nigeria for iMeter, a metering system that gives Nigerian users transparency and control over their electricity supply and Michael Asante-Afrifa, from Ghana for Science Set, a mini science lab that contains specially developed materials for experiments.

The fifth Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is now open for applications. Individuals and small teams living and working in sub-Saharan Africa, and who have an engineering innovation, are invited to enter. Potential entrants can find more information here. The deadline for entries is 23 July 2018. – Read the article on the Royal Academy of Engineers site.