At a competition for teenage tech entrepreneurs held in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, a girl team from Nigeria captured the top prize for their original mobile app start-up.
Judges at the Technovation World Pitch Summit screened thousands of entries and picked “Save-A-Soul” from Onitsha, Anambra state, as the winning team. The five teenage members of Save-A-Soul had a mobile application they called “FD Detector” (Fake Drug Detector) that can distinguish “fake drugs” – often deadly imitations of approved drugs – from genuine ones.
The system works by checking bar codes against those listed with the National Agency for Food & Drug Administration & Control (NAFDAC), a Nigerian regulatory agency.
The Technovation Summit is the world’s largest tech entrepreneurship program for girls ages 10-18. The five are students of Regina Pacis, a Catholic secondary school in Onitsha.
Speaking with Nigeria’s Daily Trust, Promise Nnalue, age 14, said they were motivated to embark on the project by the large number of deaths in Nigeria as a result of fake drugs.
African countries are the dumping ground for 40% of the world’s recorded counterfeit drugs.
The girls plan to partner with NAFDAC to create a database of certified pharmaceutical products. Once authorized by the agency, a pharmaceutical company can upload its drug listings onto the platform and be admitted to the database.
Anyone with a smartphone, both health professionals and consumers, can then scan the barcode of a drug and the app will let them know if the drug is real or fake and display its expiration date. The app also allows users to report cases of fake drugs directly to NAFDAC.
Team Save-a-Soul was selected from 2,000 mobile app developers to represent Africa at the pitch competition. The winners will share this year’s prize of more than $50,000 for seed funding and scholarships.
The girls were mentored by Uchenna Onwuaegbu-Ugwu, a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow who founded a STEM Center focused on implementing STEM education in schools for children and youth from ages 3-18, especially girls in rural communities in eastern Nigeria.