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Representing Ethiopia: Africa Youth Awards 2020 nominee Habtamu Abafogi

Avatar: Workineh Diribsa
Workineh DiribsaDecember 22, 2020
City: Jimma
Representing Ethiopia: Africa Youth Awards 2020 nominee Habtamu Abafogi

Africa Youth Awards is a prestigious award scheme with the prime aim of appreciating the works of young Africans in Africa and the Diaspora. Headquartered in Accra, Ghana and launched in 2014, the awards scheme was inspired by the lack of recognition for young Africans who have selflessly dedicated their lives to making sure the future of Africa is optimistic. 

Africa Youth Awards 2020 consists of various Awards among which are the Award for technology, Media Personality of the Year, Startup of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year. Ethiopia is represented by a nominee for the Awards for Technology whose name is Habtamu Abafogi, a biomedical professional in Jimma University.

Habtamu Abafogi, founder of Simbona Africa Healthcare Research & Department, is a senior biomedical Engineer and design expert. He has BSc in biomedical engineering and an MBA from the Business and Economics College of Jimma University.  Habtamu has 7 years of experience in innovative product design development with Team Simbona. He has extensive experience in healthcare innovation development management. He is also known for his innovative idea generation, consultation, and he is a hard worker in the ecosystem of healthcare innovations and technology transfer. 

Addis Zeybe spoke to this young innovator who is currently representing Ethiopia and is  nominated for Technology award on Africa Youth Awards 2020 for his overall social impact in medical technology innovation. Habtamu says, “Me and my friends have been working on medical technology since our graduation. We worked on creating medical equipment and new technology used for treating patients.”

He along with his friends undertook various activities to solve observed problems in medical technology. “We prepared a training that has created awareness of how health professionals can appropriately use medical technology across Jimma University and Addis Ababa hospitals. By making assessments, researching the matter, identifying problems and re-engineering identified medical equipment found in Jimma University and Addis Ababa hospitals,  we were able to save various unnecessary expenses and use the medical equipment for medical purposes” says Habtamu. Habtamu adds that these tasks have been done through the cooperation of  graduating biomedical  students from both Jimma and Addis Ababa Universities. 

There were challenges to his journey of medical technology innovation, “medical technology is new to our country so Ethiopian standard agencies had no room to welcome medical technology developments and innovations made within Ethiopia. As a result, there is a stack of various efforts related to medical technology development that haven’t yet gotten the attention they deserve. That was a great obstacle to our innovations.” 

But, according to Habtamu, the problem was resolved six months ago. “This means a lot for medical technology development and it opens up wider opportunities for future innovators” he says. 

Habtamu founded Simbon Africa PLC, an organization working on medical technology. His organization, in collaboration with Simbon Africa and Jimma University has tried and realized various medical technology developments for the last five years. “We have been designing electronic boards which is the brain of the machine and we are trying to manufacture it here in our country. Electronic boards are a decisive machine for medical technology” he says 

“Developing and producing medical equipment is not easy” says Habtamu “It passes through complex stages starting from concept development to regulatory stages. We have been working for years to make sure that medical technologies resulting from our innovation will be available in all hospital wards.” he adds.  

Currently, Habtamu has two medical machines that will soon join the market. He says that standard agencies have checked samples and he and his team are working on the final stage. 

Habtamu has been working in Kenya as well. He says there are organizations in Kenya working on medical technology development that support his vision. “The Kenyans have a vision with the motto ‘Hardware Revolution in Africa’ and I am working with them to realize this great African vision.

Kora Tushune is vice president of Business and Development in Jimma University. He knows Habtamu closely, and admires him for his unprecedented innovation efforts. “Jimma University is first in launching a biomedical field in Ethiopia. Habtamu is among the senior biomedical students with smart and innovative minds and he has come a long way” he says.  

“As a country, there is hardly a fitting environment for youth innovators where a spirit of impossible outshines the possible. Jimma University has been doing its part to overcome such impossible spirits and making holistic support to emerging young innovative minds like Habtamu” Kora adds. 

Kora believes that in order for youth innovators to fully focus on innovation, all responsible leaders and institutions have to create conducive environments for young innovators who have the capacity to transform the country. “A form of leadership and institution that appreciates and energizes young innovators is a must to help innovators move forward. So institutions have to facilitate innovators so that they can access national and international opportunities to expand and develop their innovation” he says 

“We are creating a good environment that appreciates and supports young innovators by creating incubation centers, facilitating a good working environment and creating links with various international institutions at our university. By doing so, we are integrating engineering with health and agriculture so as to change our community’s real life problems” adds Kora. 

Habtamu has great aspirations for the future, “I want to see my medical technologies in all hospital wards soon,” he says, talking about his vision. “I never really thought my efforts would be recognized at this level. Representing Ethiopia is everything, it creates and strengthens the idea that anything is possible to the younger generation” he adds. 

Habtamu adds that he is grateful that his hard work has created social impact and is  considered as paving a way to medical technology in Africa. “This nomination is not our final goal. Our Aim is to see real change in medical technology and see our innovation in every hospital wards bringing holistic change to our country, 

Africa Youth Awards has announced its shortlisted nominees for the 2020 edition of the Pan African awards scheme that honours inspirational young Africans who are championing the development of the continent in diverse fields and Habtamu is one of them. Anyone interested can vote for him following this link: https://www.africayouthawards.org/vote/. The nominations closes midnight on Monday 28th December 2020 and the winner will be announced on Friday 1st January 2021.

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A PIECE BYWorkineh Diribsa

I am Workineh, lecturer and researcher at Jimma University; journalist/correspondent for Addis Zeybe media.