AfDB funded institutes domesticating production of face mask
The African Development Bank (AfDB) said its funding for some institutes in Nigeria and Burkina Faso have boosted the domestic production of the much-needed personal protective equipment for African workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, fulfilling a strategic goal to achieve greater economic self-reliance and resilience against shocks.
The lender in a statement said the African University of Science and Technology (AUST) in Abuja, Nigeria, and the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE), Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso have began producing face masks and shields using 3D printing technology and recycled plastic, as well as hydro-alcoholic hand sanitizers, all of which are critical tools for hygiene related measures against Covid-19.
“This intervention from the Bank-funded laboratory has improved access to PPE presently in one of the most prominent hospitals in Abuja. In addition, the facilities such as the video conferencing center where virtual trainings are conducted and the ultra-modern laboratory where the face shields are produced were provided with the support of the African Development Bank,” says Project Manager, Victoria Agbo.
AUST and 2iE, the statement said are part of the Bank-funded Nelson Mandela Institutes – African Institutions of Science and Technology (NMI-AIST) project in the ECOWAS region. The project works to develop West and East African universities into centers of excellence capable of providing high-level training and research in Engineering, science, technology and innovation.
The bank said ultimately, NMI-AIST seeks to promote the free movement of high-level expert workers between African countries by harmonizing higher education systems, degrees, and programs as well as quality research and training in science and technology.
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According to AfDB, the project aims to establish regional centers of excellence in areas critical for local development and growth, including water and environmental management, computer engineering, mathematical modeling, and oil and petroleum engineering. Another goal is to boost female participation in higher education, science and technology (HEST) and engineering.
AUST’s Bank-funded laboratory has produced N95 surgical masks and face shields that have been donated to the Abuja National Hospital as well as the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano, northern Nigeria. AUST has also provided training in the design and production of 3D- printed face shields to other institutions.
AUST was selected to participate in the project because of its top-rated computer science, mathematical modelling, and petroleum engineering programs, and its ability to draw expertise from almost 50 universities around the world. A $5.6 million grant from the Bank funded the construction and equipping of a high-technology laboratory, with equipment for Petroleum engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Physics and Environmental Science.
In addition to a well-stocked library, the Bank also provided two 1000kVA power generators, one MVA transformer, and a Computer High Performance Cluster (HPC) to enhance research capacity.
Agbo, the project manager said, “We are making efforts to increase production per day. One of the techniques being explored is the use of a mould, which can be cast for the 3D printer. Using this mould will shorten production time from 45 minutes to 10 minutes per piece. Another technique we’re exploring is injection moulding that would allow us to recycle materials from failed prints and other plastics which can be used to produce useful items post COVID-19.”
The International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) in Ouagadougou has initiated production of a hydro-alcoholic hand sanitizer in the laboratory of its 2iE Water, Hydro-Systems and Agriculture Department in collaboration with students that are in the 2iE Water and Sanitation Club .
The institute produced an initial 100 liters of hand sanitizer for the use of students and staff at 2iE’s two sites, before donating 25 liters of it to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation. There are ongoing plans to scale-up production for other institutions.
A team of researchers and students has also submitted a project proposal to the country’s Center for Emergency Response Operations, which is managing the epidemic in-country, to produce facial visors.
“Thanks to the high-precision 3D printers, we are able to produce this equipment as well as spare parts for respirators and valves,” explains Mr. Hamma Yacouba, Secretary General of 2iE.