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Cameroonian Inventors Need China’s Push

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the ingenuity of certain Cameroonians. In some cases, it has simply been a polishing up of what they were already doing before. But many people seemed not to have paid much interest. Today, the country is dotted with various inventions to help fight COVID-19. But these prototypes require a push from Chinese partners to adapt and eventually mass-produce them, writes Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG.

The Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has left most sectors of the world’s economies – and even social life – battered beyond recognition. Cameroonians have not also been spared the devastating blow of the disease either. Instead of endlessly licking their wounds, Cameroonian crafts people, technicians and engineers, have risen to the occasion. Probably in fulfillment of the saying: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

The Coronavirus pandemic has proven to be more than a “need.” In fact, it is a health emergency with unparalleled challenges, medical historians and scientists say. Faced with the grim prospects of the discovery of a vaccine for the disease any time soon, Cameroonian crafts people, technicians and engineers, have been churning out their latest “discoveries” or inventions as part of the worldwide onslaught against Coronavirus.

Not also left out of this inventive/or creative surge are traditional healers, herbalists, medical practitioners, prelates, science and technology students and experts… With everyone trying to make their own contribution to save humanity from the scourge of COVID-19. Either through preventive or curative local treatments. But our focus for now is on crafts people, technicians and engineers – and their inventions.

Most have focused on hand-washing machines to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Highly recommended by the World Health Organisation, WHO, it is one of the most effective – and possibly most common – ways of preventing or breaking the chain of transmission of the deadly COVID-19 virus. That is, by regularly washing hands with soap under running water.

The hiccup with normal taps, however, has been with people repeatedly turning them on and off as they wash hands – which still presents high risks of contamination from COVID-19. The other challenge has been overcrowding at single-tap hand-washing points. To meet this felt need, a wide variety of hand-washing machine models have been developed in Cameroon. While some are manually-operated, others are powered by solar energy.

“The main advantages with these newly invented machines are that you do not have to touch the taps, thereby avoiding contacts that might result in contamination. They are so designed that those washing hands respect social distancing,” says Moukouri Eric, a Douala resident. “They are simple and easy to use. Several people can use them at the same time and still avoid overcrowding,” he points out. “I hope with these inventions, the public will become more interested in washing hands,” Moukouri adds.

These local inventors include a Bamenda-based engineer, and Njini Daniel who lives in Ndu; all in the North West Region. A private university institute and Societe d’Amenagement de Douala, SAD, in Douala, Littoral Region, are not left out. So also are students of the University of Dschang and members of an international charity, Global Compassion, based in Santchou, all in the West Region.   

Robert Ndoumbe Moukoko, is the Chief Executive Officer, CEO of RobertzCo, the consultancy firm that worked with the Douala City Council in selecting and placing orders for hand-washing machines developed by SAD. Placed at the entrance to the City Council, the machine serves six people at a time. “We finally accepted the last design after several trials in public to see its adaptability and functioning,” explains Moukoko.

“Water flow is activated with the foot on a pedal and people washing hands stand at a safe distance from each other. Moreover, you do not need to fetch water to refill the 1,000-litre reservoir. Rather, it is connected to the city’s water network for automatic refilling. In this case, the public can use it continuously for long periods without fear of running out of water,” the engineer points out.

A similar hand-washing machine designed by other crafts people is placed in front of the local district office (“Sous-prefecture”) in Bonaberi, Douala. Meanwhile, members of the Global Compassion charity based in Santchou, have also developed various models of moveable hand-washing machines. The Cameroon News Agency, CNA, on April 24, 2020, reported the invention of a hand-washing machine against COVID-19 in Ndu, Donga Mantung Division in the North West Region.

“Njini Daniel, a vibrant and renowned technician who once worked on a project for developing a helicopter has invented a hand-washing machine under the canopy of Awareness Technology, a solar store in Ndu,” CNA said. The prototype, which uses solar energy, was set up in Ndu to enable the public wash hands for free, CNA added.  Laudable as all these local inventions are, a major problem remains.

They are manually produced and as a result, large orders cannot be met within reasonable time. This is where the financial and technological prowess of Chinese industrial giants comes in. Chinese business and technical partners could assist these Cameroonian crafts people, technicians and engineers to improve on their inventions by setting up production units in the country. With such infrastructure in place, they can then mass produce for more widespread distribution. Such a move is especially urgent as the Coronavirus pandemic is still very much with us. And no one – even medical scientists – can tell for sure when it will be completely brought under control.     

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