Fatou Juka Darboe, a Gambian engineer and founder of Make3D Medical is among the finalists for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2021.
The four finalists – three of whom are women – from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa, and The Gambia were selected from a shortlist of 16 African innovators for their ability to use engineering to solve problems for African communities. They were chosen after receiving eight months of training, mentorship and support through the Africa Prize, with expert volunteers providing bespoke, one-on-one support on topics including business plans, scaling, recruitment, IP protection, financing, commercialisation, and more.
For the first time, Gambian and Ivorian-based innovators are in the running. Both South Africa and Nigeria have seen local innovators win the Africa Prize in previous years.
“Winning the Africa Prize would mean a lot for us as Gambians. Small countries like The Gambia are often overlooked. I was the first Gambian to be shortlisted for the Africa Prize. Now I am one of the four finalists. This shows what a small country can do.” Said Fatou Juka Darboe.
Make3D Medical uses 3D printing to create customised orthopaedic equipment for medical institutions and their patients. Mechanical and electronics engineer Juka Fatou Darboe from The Gambia has identified areas where Make3D Medical devices can be used as an alternative to surgery, and where they can be used to modify existing devices to make them more culturally acceptable, more physician- and patient-friendly, and better suited to local climates than Plaster of Paris. The company also helps medical professionals learn how to print their own components, providing a package of training, hardware, software, raw materials, and 3D designs.
The Gambia currently imports the vast majority of its medical equipment, and practical training and lab equipment for medical students is limited.
Juka and her team not only develop finished components and medical products that help doctors provide high-quality care without delays caused by importing and customs, but they also teach medical professionals to make their own products. The company’s capacity-building packages include Make3D Medical hardware and software, training for staff, raw materials, and access to a central database of verified 3D designs. This allows hospitals and clinics to respond to needs in real-time – if equipment breaks, components can be printed. When patients need structural support like splints and braces, they can be custom made.
“We have identified areas where Make3D Medical devices can be used as an alternative to surgery, and where they can be used to modify existing devices to make them more culturally acceptable, more physician- and patient-friendly, and better suited to local climates than Plaster of Paris.” Fatou Darboe mentioned.
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