Many people are of the opinion that African solutions are the way forward in solving problems faced by Africans. This is why many Nigerians were excited about the ventilator prototype being developed by Bennie Manufacturing Ltd in Plateau state.
According to the CEO of Bennie Technologies Ltd, Jerry Mallo, the project began when he received inquiries from well-meaning Nigerians asking his company to develop a ventilator.
At the time, the company had not worked on a ventilator before, and Mallo had no idea how one worked.
After carrying out research and carving out a plan with his team of engineers, Mallo went into action. According to him, the prototype was manufactured 8 days after they started working.
In a Tweet, he mentioned that his team worked from 17 hours (8 am to 1 am) in order to fast-track the development of the prototype.
Progress report of the Ventilator project so far
Since Bennie started constructing the prototype, the development phase progressed with the input of medical experts. The team comprised mostly engineers, and as such health experts were required to provide guidelines and make sure the equipment was being designed to meet the need on the ground.
The prototype eventually underwent clinical testing. While Mallo insists it worked it very well, it was not given a pass.
He explained that the next steps involved putting in devices that will measure the details of everything going on in the ventilator.
To get the project to the stage where it currently is, the company received funding from the Plateau state government. Besides the funding, it was very important to check out an existing ventilator that worked properly.
According to Mallo, the state government made it possible for the Bennie team to have access to and examine the workings of an existing ventilator before they went on with the design of the locally-made one.
Some of the advantages of making the ventilator locally, if it is accomplished, is that the ventilators will be available for use in the country. This will combat the challenges of unavailability and high cost of obtaining it from abroad.
In spite of the laudable progress made so far, the ventilator is far from being ready for use.
The Plateau State Commissioner for Health, Nimkong Larndam, revealed some of the challenges that need to be overcome before the ventilator can be certified for use.
While asserting that the state government commissioned the development of the ventilator, he explained that what was expected is an ICU ventilator and the current prototype is not.
It didn’t fit into what we wanted because it is not an ICU ventilator. It is just an ordinary ventilator that can support accident patients who need attention at a critical care centreNimkong Larndam
One of the major hindrances to the completion of the project is that components like sensors that are necessary for calibration and ensuring the ventilator are ICU-standard are not available in the country.
According to Larndam, “we wanted him to do an ICU ventilator and gave him the specification but he said he has to import some things before he will be able to do that one.”
Importing those components will definitely bury Jerry Mallo’s claim that the ventilator is made from locally-sourced materials. Up until now, that has been the case.
Another challenge is that of funding. With the problem of sourcing for materials abroad, the Plateau state government is not exactly willing to continue to fund Bennie’s ventilator project.
So what will make the ventilator ready for use?
Since the two major challenges are funding and materials, finding a way to obtain the necessary materials and sustain the government’s funding will be a major goal for Mr Mallo. The success and approval of the first prototype will be a major landmark that will attract other investors, as this is a much-needed solution globally.
Needless to say, many people look forward to innovations from the country’s entrepreneurs in solving critical problems. However, beyond having the ideas or skills, governmental support, particularly in areas of funding and importation, if made available, will help in the rapid development of innovative solutions.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!