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Dutch businesses fighting COVID-19 and its consequences in Africa

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Published on: 11 August 2020 | Changed on: 21 August 2020
With a maximum budget of €200,000 5 groups of businesses are developing innovations that contribute to the COVID-19 approach in Africa. The groups consist of companies based in the Netherlands and partners in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda.

In May, 95 groups of businesses submitted an idea to support the COVID-19 approach and limit damage to public health in Africa. 15 groups were selected to conduct a short feasibility study. 5 of these 15 groups of businesses were then selected to adapt and locally scale up their innovations in the coming 12 months. For these projects, the local context and co-creation with local partners are very important.

The 5 COVID-19 projects

The 5 chosen projects support health workers, citizens and their mental health.

Inuka B.V.: Digital mental health solution

About 1 in 5 people experience anxiety and depression every year. 90% of them do not receive appropriate care due to the lack of trained professionals, the high costs of care and the high levels of stigma. Access to psychosocial support was challenging even before COVID-19. Now, the need for mental health support is even greater. Accessing this support is even more difficult due to social distancing. Inuka B.V. will further develop a mobile phone digital mental health solution. It will collaborate with StrongMinds in Uganda: chat-based coaching and group teletherapy.

Afrisight: Digital platform

With its digital platform, Afrisight wants to collect reliable data , even during the lockdowns. The International Labour Organization estimates that 86% of Africans are informally employed, lacking social protection and living in poverty. In these circumstances, it is important to track the moods, attitudes, mental health and impact of COVID-19 on Africans and healthcare workers. 80% of research and data collection in Africa is currently done face-to-face. This makes it difficult to collect reliable data during lockdowns. The data collected by the digital platform can be used for advocacy and awareness campaigns. Afrisight provides information on how governments and companies can take measures to address the concerns of their citizens.

Healthy Entrepreneurs: Remote triage

Healthy Entrepreneurs wants to support health workers, especially in the more remote districts in Uganda. The plan is to set up remote triage - assessment of what care is needed. This is an effective approach to reduce contamination, improve response time and maximise the effectiveness of health personnel. The telehealth solution from Healthy Entrepreneurs will support a network of health workers. It provides a toll-free line, remote capacity building and tailor-made communication materials. The remote support helps ensure a safe working environment. It also traces COVID-19 cases and allows Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) treatment to go on.

TMC: Reusable surgical mouth masks

TMC wants to produce washable, reusable surgical mouth masks in collaboration with EcoBrix. The masks will be made from locally recycled plastic waste at an affordable price. Together, they are co-creating a new production process for the masks. The process is based on the context of the Ugandan healthcare system, the existing Eco Brixs production facility and the Eco Brixs recycling network made up of hundreds of local people. The project ensures a positive impact in 2 ways. It provides high-quality, affordable, reusable mouth masks and a daily income to local plastic waste collectors.

FROLIC: Innovative decontamination box

FROLIC studio has developed an innovative disinfection box. It uses Ultra-Violet Germicidal Irradiation or UV-C. The World Health Organization approves this method. In the box, viruses and bacteria are removed from personal protective equipment so it can be reused. The box will be redesigned and redeveloped for mass production in Uganda. It will help protect primary health workers so that they can safely and effectively fight COVID-19. It will also help ensure that regular services carry on. The product will be scaled up locally and manufactured sustainably by skilled workers using local materials.

Selection criteria

In the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) in Developing Markets programme, projects are selected based on the following criteria:

  • impact on the theme;
  • innovation;
  • quality of the project; and
  • economic perspective.

Also taken into consideration are:

  • co-creation and cooperation with local partners;
  • the gender approach; and
  • the involvement of women in the innovations.

Want to know more about SBIR?

The Dutch government uses the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) in Developing Markets programme to challenge entrepreneurs to solve societal problems with innovative products and services in collaboration and co-creation with local partners in Africa. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency carries out SBIR for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.