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Johnson & Johnson Announces Six Winners of the Champions of Science Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 at the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa

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  • Award of US $300,000, Extensive Mentoring and Connection Network Building to Support Expansion and Sustainability of Businesses and Programs
  • Significant Investment Across Critical Healthcare Areas – Blood Delivery, Healthcare Worker Burnout, Hearing Loss, Jaundice, Malaria and Ultrasound Access

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA, SEPTEMBER 5, 2019— Johnson & Johnson today announced the winners of the Champions of Science Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 at the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) in Cape Town, South Africa. The six winning businesses and programs offer bold, entrepreneurial approaches to tackling major healthcare priorities in African communities, including Blood Delivery, Healthcare Worker Burnout, Hearing Loss, Jaundice, Malaria and Ultrasound Access.

A total amount of US $300,000 will be awarded to the winning teams, along with extensive mentoring and connection network building, to support the expansion and sustainability of the companies and programs. The Challenge reflects Johnson & Johnson’s legacy of supporting entrepreneurs around the world to uncover, develop and promote solutions that improve health and wellbeing in their communities and beyond.

“The innovation ecosystem in Africa is thriving, and the ideas and energy of its entrepreneurs and innovators have the potential to create transformational change for people across the continent and around the world,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee, Johnson & Johnson. “The six winners of the Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 are addressing major healthcare challenges with novel technology and approaches. We look forward to collaborating with and investing in them as they work to create sustainable businesses and programs that offer strong benefits to patients, families, healthcare workers and communities in markets across Africa and beyond.”

The Challenge received nearly 900 submissions from 39 countries, and the winning businesses and programs represent outstanding ingenuity and perseverance, as well as a pathway for scaling operations for long-term sustainability. The winners will be recognized today at a press conference at WEF from 1:45 – 2:15 PM SAST, along with prominent African government leaders.

“The World Economic Forum is excited to partner in announcing the winners of the Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 at this year’s congress, which is focused on Innovation, Cooperation, Growth and Stability, critical areas that the challenge embodies,” said Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum. “Each of the six winners brings a passion for innovation, a bold sense of purpose and a commitment to the future of their communities and the larger continent. By participation in our meeting, we hope that they will be able to gain knowledge, ideas and connections to help them take their business to the next level as well as inspire leaders to encourage and support future generations of innovators.”

“The winners of the first Africa Innovation Challenge have made significant advancements with their businesses, including hiring more workers, accelerating production and securing important patents and trademarks – all part of the ambitions and goals of the Challenge,” said Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Public Health and Science Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson. “The new winners are equally impressive and talented, and we are confident that by linking the energy and ingenuity of these winners with the resources available through the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, that they will also make a real and lasting impact in communities across Africa.”


The Challenge winners were selected from a large and impressive pool of applications reviewed by a Johnson & Johnson cross-sector team representing our Consumer, Medical Devices, Pharmaceutical, Global Public Health, Corporate Equity and Johnson & Johnson Innovation businesses and groups. The winning teams each target a significant unmet need:


  • LIFEBANK (Nigeria) – The lack of an established blood supply network in Nigeria can make access to appropriate blood transfusion very difficult and is contributing to loss of life[i]. LifeBank is working to change this dynamic. The company receives requests through a digital platform with the intent of delivering the necessary blood to hospitals in less than 45 minutes in a WHO Blood Transfusion Safety compliant cold chain.


  • THE HOPE INITIATIVE (Rwanda) – More than 50 percent of emergency care workers are at high risk for burnout given the nature of their jobs[ii]. The Hope Initiative builds upon research that has demonstrated the positive influence of intrinsic hope on health outcomes of healthcare workers and their patients. Using a validated metric, The Hope Initiative intends to measure hope among nurses and mothers to understand how hope intersects with healthcare worker burnout and perinatal health outcomes. The Initiative intends to identify interventions that positively influence hope and build both a sustainable team of healthcare workers and sustainable improvements in patient outcomes.


  • DREET (Botswana) – More than 460 million people around the world are hearing-impaired[iii], and two-thirds of them live in developing countries[iv]. Hearing loss can lead to unnecessary poverty and hardship in affected families and communities. DREET is a mobile phone app that allows a child in rural Africa to have their hearing tested in real time by a professional who may live thousands of miles away. Their phone-based hearing device tests the hearing in children as young as three years old, allowing parents to prepare and understand impacts of raising a hearing-impaired child, or counteracting potential developmental issues such as speech impediments due to hearing impairment.


  • CRIB A’GLOW (Nigeria) – An estimated six million babies do not receive treatment for neonatal jaundice because they lack access to effective phototherapy devices[v]. If untreated, severe jaundice can cause hearing loss, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, kernicterus and even death. Crib A’glow is a solar-powered, foldable phototherapy crib provided to hospitals, health centers and parents, even in communities where access to quality healthcare and stable electricity is poor. Crib A’glow allows jaundiced babies to receive important phototherapy to help them regain health.


  • UGANICS (Uganda) - Uganda has one of the highest malaria transmission rates in the world[vi], and malaria is also one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Uganda, especially among children under five years old[vii]. Commercial mosquito repellent sprays or gels are often not available in rural shops nor are they affordable for many low-income parents. Uganics manufactures an organic, affordable soap that repels mosquitos with intent to help prevent the spread of malaria. Uganics’ soap can be utilized in a variety of ways, such as bathing, washing hands and washing clothes.


  • MSCAN (Uganda) – The WHO recommends at least one ultrasound scan before 24 weeks’ gestation and eight total prenatal visits for expecting mothers[viii]. Rural communities often lack access to ultrasound machines, requiring expecting mothers to spend valuable time, energy and resources on transportation to far away clinics in order to access ultrasound services. mSCAN’s device performs ultrasounds through the use of a portable probe and a tablet, laptop, or smartphone, allowing trained healthcare workers and midwives to be prepared for potential risk-factors during delivery.

Johnson & Johnson cross-sector teams will now begin working with each business and program and will report their progress at the Next Einstein Forum’s global gathering event in 2020. The Next Einstein Forum is a platform that connects science, society and policy in Africa and the rest of the world.
For more information on the Africa Innovation Challenge and the stories of innovation from past winners, please visit

About Johnson & Johnson in Africa
The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies have a strong legacy in Africa. More than 85 years ago, South Africa was selected as the company’s third overseas location and has steadily expanded its footprint in Africa to 27 countries. Today, Johnson & Johnson operates three manufacturing plants and employs more than 1,500 employees in Africa who serve the region’s diverse health needs through our consumer, commercial, global public health and corporate citizenship programs.

Through innovation, collaboration and local engagement we are:

  • Cultivating Africa’s innovation through heath technology hubs
  • Expanding R&D skills and capacity among African scientists
  • Catalyzing healthcare infrastructure investments
  • Enhancing collaboration with local health delivery partners
  • Boosting education and training resources for healthcare workers
  • Empowering African youth to thrive and become drivers of change
  • Improving access to medicines.

About Johnson & Johnson
At Johnson & Johnson, we believe good health is the foundation of vibrant lives, thriving communities and forward progress. That’s why for more than 130 years, we have aimed to keep people well at every age and every stage of life. Today, as the world’s largest and most broadly-based health care company, we are committed to using our reach and size for good. We strive to improve access and affordability, create healthier communities and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere. We are blending our heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.

[i] African Population and Health Research Center. Fact Sheet. June 2017. Accessed Online:
[ii] National Institiutes of Health. A cross-sectional survey of burnout amongst doctors in a cohort of public sector emergency centres in Gauteng, South Africa. May 7, 2018. Accessed Online:
[iii] World Health Organization. Deafness and Hearing Loss. March 20, 2019. Accessed Online:
[iv] National Institutes of Health. Hearing Impairment Among Children Referred to a Public Audiology Clinic in Gaborone, Botswana. April 20, 2018. Accessed Online:
[v] National Institutes of Health. Incidence and Risk Factors for Neonatal Jaundice among Newborns in Southern Nepal September 23, 2013. Accessed Online:
[vi] World Health Organization. Malaria. March 27, 2019. Accessed Online:
[vii] N. Kiwanuka, Gertrude. Malaria Morbidity and Mortality in Uganda. March-June 2003. Accessed Online:
[viii] World Health Organization. New Guidelines on Antenatal Care for a Positive Pregnancy Experience. November 7, 2018. Accessed Online:

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