Scientific Technologies you had no idea were invented by Africans

Quiet Cellular Antenna Technology

air broadcast antenna architecture connection
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More often than not we tend to imagine that scientific innovation and invention is a preserve of our Global Western or Eastern neighbors and this notion is further propagated by our financial dependence on them. This is miles away from the truth though for instance after being short-listed along with Australia to host the SKA, Square Kilometer Array– a partnership between 67 organizations in 20 countries which would ultimately produce the world’s largest radio telescope, Dr. Gordon Mayhew-Ridgers and Paul van Jaarsveld, two Vodacom employees, from South Africa, were tasked to come up with a solution to the problem of Radio Frequency interference at the proposed SKA core site, a number of strong RF signals can still be measured in this area. Some of these are due to GSM, (Global System for Mobile communications), cellular base stations.

stainless steel radio receiver
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The GSM signals are strong enough to potentially block the receivers of the radio telescopes, and the SKA Project Office approached Vodacom in 2006 to reducing these signal levels. Gordon Mayhew-Ridgers and Paul van Jaarsveld, invented cellular antenna technology which reduces “noisy” emissions from cellular base stations in the area. This invention was needed to offer mobile services in the Karoo without compromising the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) research.

In case you are wondering, what does this have to do with anything I am involved in? Well, RF noise causes a lot of minor and can culminate in major interference that can lead to extensive loss and damage. A simple example of RF Noise interference is your call getting dropped. Low network coverage is not always to blame for not being able to tell your significant other what you had for lunch, RF noise could be causing the interference. This may seem to be something trivial at the moment but if you consider that the call you are on is to an emergency unit and you are getting instructions to deliver a baby from the emergency doc on the other end, you would find good reason to thank these two gents.

Multicore Processors

black and blue electronic tools on green circuit board

The key factor about multicore processor is that it gives the same performance of a single faster processor at lower power dissipation and at a lower clock frequency by handling more tasks or instructions in parallel. Oyekunle Ayinde (Kunle) Olukotun, from Nigeria, is a pioneer of multi-core processors, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University and director of the Pervasive Parallelism Laboratory at Stanford.

gigabyte black motherboard
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In the mid-1990s, Kunle Olukotun and his co-authors argued that multi-core computer processors were likely to make better use of hardware than existing superscalar designs. In 2000, while a professor at Stanford, he founded Afara Websystems, a company that designed and manufactured multi-core SPARC-based computer processors for data centers. You’re probably thinking, well, what are the advantages of multi-core processors? It’s simple, the proximity of multiple CPU cores on the same die allows the cache coherency circuitry, which is the uniformity of shared resource data that ends up stored in multiple local caches, and caches being hardware or software component that stores data so that future requests for that data can be served faster, (for the section of the readers who computing isn’t a first language),  to operate at a much higher clock rate than what is possible if the signals have to travel off-chip. Combining equivalent CPUs on a single die significantly improves the performance of cache snoop (alternative: Bus snooping) operations. Put simply, this means that signals between different CPUs travel shorter distances, and therefore those signals degrade less. If you’re still asking what help it could be to you? I leave you with this last parting words, faster WiFi.

Cat scan


A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan allows doctors to see inside your body. It uses a combination of X-rays and a computer to create pictures of your organs, bones, and other tissues. It shows more detail than a regular X-ray. Allan MacLeod Cormack, a South African/ “American” physicist who won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (along with Godfrey Hounsfield) for his work on X-ray computed tomography (CT). William K. Rontgen, a German mechanical engineer and physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, set the way for Mr. Cormack who as the head of a hospital radiology department in Cape town was concerned about delivering the precise X-ray dose needed at a specific point in the body and asked him to find a way to measure how much X-ray energy was absorbed by various parts of the body. Mr. Cormack figured it would be a cinch to solve the immediate problem of the distribution of X-ray absorption by making an X-ray map of the body. The map would show which tissues and other materials were where by shooting X-rays through the body from many different angles, then using triangulation to derive a high-definition image of any given cross-section. What did he get for that? A second mention on Wikipedia after British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI laboratories and a dual citizenship!

ROSA Surgical Robot


ROSA is a medical robotic technology, designed to minimize invasiveness of surgeries of the central nervous system. ROSA robots assist health professionals during surgical procedures. The ROSA device is an integrated platform solution combining software for neurosurgical planning and navigation, with a robotic arm of high technology. Bertin Nahum, from Benin and a French citizen too, has developed a robot called Rosa™ that assists surgeons with brain and spinal surgery. He started the company (Medtech SAS) that conceives surgical robots in 2002. The robots manufactured by Medtech SAS “simply” help surgeons perform their tasks efficiently and with precision. He is a graduate of The National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA Lyon, France) and holds a Master of Science in Robotics from Coventry University (England).

Charging shoes


At 24 years old, the Kenyan Anthony Mutua invented the shoes that recharge batteries. In fact, he used Nike sports shoes as samples. The idea is to use the energy created by the movements of our body to generate electricity that can thus recharge batteries of mobile phones or other electronic devices. The battery is placed in the sole of the shoe and the piezoelectric system bustles at every pressure of our foot on the ground and produces a renewable energy without paying out the slightest centime.


There are two ways of collecting the energy: connect directly the device to be recharged to the shoe via a rather long cable so that the device in question can be placed and hold in a pocket, or keep the electricity generated in the battery in the system to recharge it once seated. The chip would be adaptable a priori to the sole of any shoe and would be even transferable into another pair in case of wear. Doubts rouse as for their adaptation to flip-flops and some slippers.

The invention though four years down the line has not caught on, it is still estimated at 35 euros and constitutes an additional step towards the renewable energies and the sustainable development.

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