Kebs approves cheap, Kenyan-made medical equipment

Two other locally produced medical devices are being evaluated by the standards agency

In Summary

• The exhibition brings together more than 80 innovators and start-ups. 

• Education CS George Magoha urges universities to move beyond research into innovation.

A suction machine showcased during an innovation summit at the University of Nairobi
A suction machine showcased during an innovation summit at the University of Nairobi

A piece of medical equipment made by young Kenyan engineers has now been approved by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. 

This is a major step for a country that spent more than Sh37 billion importing medical devices in the past five years. 

The approved equipment is a suction machine, which has passed clinical tests and is ready for the market. It was developed at the University of Nairobi's Fablab, an innovation incubation centre headed by Dr Richard Ayah.

Suction machines are used to remove substances such as blood, saliva, mucus, and vomit from a person's airway. They can prevent pulmonary aspiration and facilitate breathing. 

A prototype was among the innovations displayed yesterday at the ongoing University of Nairobi's innovation summit.

"With more locally produced, cost-effective medical equipment, Kenya could reduce reliance on costly and protracted international procurement processes," Ayah said. 

Two other locally produced medical equipment are currently being evaluated by Kebs. They are a phototherapy machine, and a drip stand made by engineer Agnes Waita.

The exhibition, opened by ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, brings together more than 80 innovators and start-ups. 

"In the coming budget, we will have a fund to support our innovators and start-ups," Mucheru said.

"If you have an innovation in Kenya, we now have structures to ensure your intellectual property will be protected."

Mucheru said Kenya has been nominated several times as the best place in Africa for innovation and digital life. 

Education CS George Magoha, who attended the launch, challenged universities to move beyond research into innovation. 

"In Kenya, the concept of the university has been lost because we have universities without researchers, but just teachers. The word innovation doesn't exist, we must say no to this nonsense," he said.

Magoha urged innovators to help the informal (jua kali) sector by improving its products. He called on universities to empower students to become self-employed so they don't look for office jobs. 

"If you meet people with BSc in Agriculture saying 'I've not been employed for the last five years,' they are stupid," he said. 

Youth CS Margaret Kobia appealed to young people to embrace innovation. 

"The concept of 'go to school, to university, get a job,' no longer works for us," she said. 

The weeklong event acts as a meeting point for start-ups, innovators, entrepreneurs, established companies, government agencies, and academia to showcase their innovations and programmes. 

It provides a forum to bridge the gap between local entrepreneurs, talent and capital, thereby accelerating the growing start-up community.

This year, the theme is 'Innovation and the Big Four Agenda'.

(Edited by F'Orieny)