What is COVIDaction Local Production Local Solutions?
Will there be a shift away from long, global, just-in-time supply chains towards more resilient, shorter, regional chains due to vulnerabilities exposed through the pandemic?
COVIDaction Local Production & Local Solutions (LPLS) was designed to address these type of big questions by crowdsourcing and mapping innovative responses dealing with the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other unavailable goods. Since April 2020, the initiative has launched a series of open calls to surface how organisations and grassroots innovators across Africa and South Asia have pivoted in local production and novel approaches to meet community needs. The programme provides identified social entrepreneurs financial and technical assistance to scale their impact.
What are we working to achieve?
The LPLS theme addresses supply chain issues that have arisen during COVID-19. LPLS, while currently focused on COVID-19-related products, prioritises making local production systems more resilient. Global logistics have been compromised by lockdowns and border controls across Africa and other low to middle-income countries (LMICs), leaving many businesses and citizens without key parts of their supply chain. This condition has exposed the rigid, inflexible state of production in many settings, demonstrating the need for locally resilient, flexible production ecosystems. LPLS is working to develop broader, restorative, and agile supply systems, while providing people with the life-saving health and community resources they need to face current restrictions.
How are we funded?
COVIDaction is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) across key thematic areas of oxygen, data, resilient health, and local production. The programme is a partnership between the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office’s Frontier Technology Hub, Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, along with other collaborators.
What have we done so far?
Since establishing our call, we have received 500+ submissions, across 40+ countries. To capture the diverse nature of the global response to the pandemic across scales and sectors, the programme collaborates with AfriLabs to reach a wider audience. Across eight countries, AfriLabs led scouts into informal communities that would not be reached with a traditional online call. Through this offline scouting, we were able to collect submissions from over 70 grassroots innovators in remote areas. LPLS has awarded grant funding and is providing business development support to 10 organisations.
Our portfolio of innovations
We have surfaced remarkable pivots and innovations dealing with the demand for unavailable goods, and are proud to work with 10 incredible innovators across Africa and in Nepal.
- Biogenics: based in Uganda and is producing five-layer protective KN95 masks and three-layer protective surgical masks.
- Centre for Innovation, Science and Technology East Africa Industries Limited (CIST Africa): based in Kenya is increasing production of hand sanitiser from ethanol garnered from water hyacinth, an aquatic weed found in Lake Victoria.
- Clintonel: based in Nigeria and is utilising waste aluminium acquired through scrap markets to create moulds, PPE like face shields, and other plastic products such as broken and repair parts that are difficult to secure during crises.
- Garbage In Value Out (GIVO): based in Nigeria and is producing face shields from recycled plastic bottle caps and developing public sector and corporate applications from the data around the waste the business collects.
- Global Auto Systems (GAS): based in Uganda and uses 3D printing technology and other manufacturing processes to produce reusable vacuum moulded face masks. Also, building platforms to enhance local education on PPE creation and health awareness.
- Safe Motherhood Alliance: based in Zambia and creating a mobile application to support rural mothers during pregnancy. Additionally, producing an array of health products including low-cost baby delivery kits, biodegradable sanitary pads, and other 3D printed PPE.
- Silafrica: based in Kenya and working with the country’s informal sector (Jua Kali) to produce medical gowns.
- Taka Taka Solutions: based in Kenya and developing a take-back scheme to recycle PPE and provide an end to end waste management solution.
- Zener Technologies: based in Nepal and is using 3D printing technology, an online portal, and distributed manufacturing principles to connect decentralized local communities to produce PPE, including face shields and protective goggles.
As well as our original consortium of partners, here is a list of some of the amazing organisations that have helped us make COVIDaction LPLS what it is today:
- African Emergency Tech Response Forum
- Field Ready
- Institute of Making
- Manufacturing Africa
- Royal Academy of Engineering
- The Academy of Medical Sciences
- UCL Plastic Waste Innovation Hub
Key themes that we are exploring right now
LPLS has seen two approaches emerge to enhance locally resilient production systems:
- Circular Economy — This is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, reusing materials and retaining their value for the local community, and regenerating natural ecosystems. The environmental sustainability at the heart of many of the businesses across the portfolio is critical because there has been a sharp increase in the amount of plastic waste shipped to Africa in recent years. Many of the LPLS enterprises are helping recycle plastic waste to counter these forces and other harmful accumulation of these materials.
Distributed Manufacturing — This is a decentralised production practice using a network of geographically dispersed facilities and enterprises coordinated with information technology to manufacture locally. The process helps link global and remote expertise, diversify supplier networks, and enable local engineering teams to eliminate unnecessary inventory by creating items on-demand. Through COVIDaction’s support of 3D printing, injection moulding, and the creation of online platforms that connect local producers in grantees’ countries of operation, distributed manufacturing approaches are being advanced.
What’s on the horizon?
The Resilient Production CoLab: becoming a field catalyst for resilient production
The pivots and innovations surfaced through LPLS provide guidance for how to help LMICs deal with production during future emergency scenarios. To support broader evolution in manufacturing we are working to create a field catalyst that will help align various programmes and approaches to amplify the efforts of the whole ecosystem.
We know that building long-term resilience in production requires being intentional about leveraging the power of networks and leading interconnected systemic change. To unlock barriers to growth and enable collective intelligence and visibility, LPLS is building an online map of production of the manufacturing equipment and domestic capacity in Africa and beyond to help people identify how to meet diverse design, prototyping, and production needs. We are also tackling other issues such as material shortages across the continent, working with organizations like Kijenzi, Field Ready, and Manufacturing Africa to identify and advance 3D printer filament production.
Over and above the response to the devastation caused by the pandemic, the work we are supporting has broader environmental, gender, and poverty reduction impacts. We have been inspired by female-led social enterprises like Safe Motherhood Alliance, which are providing life-saving products to decrease infant and maternal mortality. We have witnessed established businesses like Silafrica, collaborate with informal artisans to produce PPE and help reduce unemployment. CIST Africa’s use of water hyacinth, an invasive weed found in Lake Victoria, to produce hand sanitiser is helping stem a myriad of ecological impacts in Kenya. These are just some of the positive social returns these enterprises have had on their communities.
We will continue to share what we learn along the way, so watch this space for more information and if you are on Twitter, follow @COVIDactionTech for updates.
Are you also thinking about addressing supply chain issues and building long-term resilience for local production? Then we want to hear from you!
Email us at COVIDactionfirstname.lastname@example.org