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The African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec), a pan-African collaboration consisting of technology-focused universities from across the African continent, has awarded 11 $300,000 grants to build research capacity and advance digital transformation on the African continent. Each multi-university research team will utilize innovative practices in disciplines that include artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, and information & communication technologies in order to advance AU Digital Transformation Strategy, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.

The UN SDGs touch on every aspect of society, and as a result, the selected projects have the potential to address problems in a multitude of areas, including agriculture, education, energy, financial inclusion, healthcare, infrastructure, manufacturing, transportation, waste management, and water systems.

Awarded projects

Culturally sensitive social robotics for Africa

PI: David Vernon

Partner institutions: University of the Witwatersrand, Carnegie Mellon University-Africa

The project will identify verbal and non-verbal social and cultural norms of human interaction that are prevalent in African countries in order to incorporate them in the behavioral patterns of social robots so that they can engage with African people in a manner that is consistent with their expectations of acceptable social interaction.

Digital malaria control for the developing world

PI: Carine Pierrette Mukamakuza

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University Africa, University of Rwanda

By studying human and organizational factors, this project aims to adapt current technological advances in order to improve malaria control in the African context including investigating deep learning methods for reliably identifying malaria parasites. 

Low-cost, accessible biotechnologies for African hair and dark skin colors

PI: Pulkit Grover

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Mellon University-Africa, American University in Cairo, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Rwanda, University of Ghana

Focused on the improvement of biotechnologies, this project will refine electroencephalography (EEG), a technology that measures brain activity, to work with all African hair types and enhance Pulse oximetry (PulseOx) to remove sources of bias in measuring blood oxygen saturation.

Leveraging additive manufacturing to improve access to quality prosthetic, and orthotic services in developing countries

PI: Moise Busogi

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University-Africa, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Rwanda, University of Nairobi

Integrating elements of digital technology and additive manufacturing, this project seeks to enhance access to cost-effective, quick, and quality prosthetic and orthotic services. 

Continental digitized African sensing platform

PI: Swillam Mohamed     
Partner institutions: American University in Cairo, University of Lagos, Carnegie Mellon University

The goal of the project is to create the infrastructure needed to develop, test, and deploy one of the first low-cost air pollutant sensors created and produced completely in Africa.

Pathogen detection from blood-serum samples using novel microelectronic sensors and AI

PI: Ismail Yehea
Partner institutions: American University in Cairo, Carnegie Mellon University

Focusing on biosensor data that is tailored to detect biomarkers, pathogens, and parasites in blood specimens, the project will develop microfluidic sensing technology that utilizes impedance detection and machine learning techniques. Healthcare access in Africa will be improved as this technique will be more suitable for remote and point-of-care settings.

Towards IoT-enabled privacy-preserving large-scale healthcare analytics in Africa: A use case on monitoring a cardiovascular disease

PI: Elbat Tamer

Partner institutions: American University in Cairo, University of the Witwatersrand, Carnegie Mellon University

This project aims to make monitoring cardiovascular diseases more accessible by designing and demonstrating low-cost, privacy preserving, and scalable digital technologies based on Internet of Things (IoT). Wireless and machine learning will be used to monitor and identify abnormal electrocardiogram patterns in patients.

Strengthening water access and quality in selected African countries

PI: Amuda Muhammed

Partner institutions: University of Lagos, University of Nairobi, University of Rwanda

Informed by community knowledge and participation, the project will develop smart in-situ water purification technology in two informal communities in each of the partnering institutions’ cities in order to build an African knowledge ecosystem for improving and ensuring water security.

Finia: Financial inclusion via novel intelligence and alternative data

PI: Chipeta Chimwemwe

Partner institutions: University of the Witwatersrand, Carnegie Mellon University-Africa

This project builds data-driven digital building blocks for financial inclusion and education in Africa. These provide recommendations on how to design digital financial literacy strategies; examine the factors that drive successful transition to digital financial services; and explore machine learning tools to predict financial distress of African startups.

Improving digital education and learning innovation in the South African and Rwandan teacher education systems: Towards bridging a digital knowledge divide in Africa

PI: Juliet Perumal

Partner institutions: University of the Witwatersrand, University of Rwanda

In order to further close the digital divide in Africa, this project will develop a digital education and learning laboratory that will be used as a site for modeling professional teacher development and creating a research-led platform to build research capacity between its partner institutions.

Supporting inclusive air quality management in Africa with a novel system of digital tools

PI: Peter Adams

Partner institutions: Carnegie Mellon University, University of Rwanda, Makerere University, Cairo University, Université Jean Lorougnon Guede, University of Pretoria

Through building digitally enabled, low-cost, technical, and policy analysis tools, the project will aid African decision-makers as they manage air quality and protect public health.