New Medical Technologies Developed by Students in South Africa, Uganda and Kenya

New medical technologies embody the adage of necessity and invention. Students in South Africa, Uganda and Kenya developed new technologies to improve health care and diagnostic methods in their countries.

FieldLab (

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, mobile labs were valuable in speeding up diagnoses. They often were truck mounted or container based, so they could not reach those in areas with poor roads or limited access to fuel or generators. Two graduate students at Rhodes University in South Africa developed FieldLab, a solar-powered lab in a briefcase-sized box. FieldLab, specifically developed to be carried into remote or conflict-ridden areas, can provide mobile lab access to all. FieldLab’s 3D printed equipment can test for viruses and bacteria, carry out DNA analysis, and perform centrifugation. Learn more here.


Matibabu’s Brian Gitta and Shafik Sekitto with the device. Photograph: James Oatway/Royal Academy for Engineering/

Malaria, the leading cause of death in Uganda, is typically diagnosed with an invasive and time consuming blood draw. Seven university students in Uganda, all of whom suffered malaria during their time at university, developed a malaria testing device that does not require a blood draw. Matibabu (“medical center” in Swahili) clips to a patient’s finger and by shining a light on the skin, detects changes in color, shape and concentration of red blood cells. The magnet in the device detects magnetic particles in the patient’s blood (an effect of the malarial parasitic infection) and returns the results to a computer or smartphone. Matibabu’s developers hope to use the device not only to detect malaria in Uganda, but across sub-Saharan Africa. Read more about Matibabu.


Members of the Sixth Sense team at work in Nairobi. Photograph: James Oatway for Proof Africa/Royal Academy for Engineering/

A student in Kenya knew there was a better way for his visually impaired friends and classmates, all of whom used traditional white canes, to find their way. More than 1 million Kenyans are blind or visually impaired, often because of cataracts or trachoma. Inspired by bats’ ability to echolocate, he built a small, handheld device that employs ultrasonic sensors to vibrate in relation to one’s proximity to an object. The closer one gets to it, the more the device, the Sixth Sense, vibrates. It can also be used as an emergency device if the user is in distress. At the push of a button, the user’s location is sent to a predetermined contact. Learn more about Sixth Sense’s inventor and the device’s continued development here.