Tanzania: Adopting Tech to End Malaria Without Harming Mosquitoes

Dar es Salaam — While Tanzanians are desperately out and out to eliminate mosquitoes for causing malaria, it is a different case for Paulina Haule, 21, who dreams to end the disease while leaving the insects alive and well!

Paulina and her four colleagues have developed a mosquito repelling machine which, they say, can keep the insects at bay using frequency noise waves.

Not all mosquitoes spread the disease; only the female anopheles does so. Besides, mosquitoes are important for biodiversity, as there are other creatures which live on mosquitoes as their food...

Known as 'Ultrasonic Mosquito Repellant,' the electric anti-mosquito machine produces a range of sounds in frequencies of which no mosquito can withstand.

"You just switch it on - and the sound keeps mosquitos at bay; it doesn't kill them; it just keeps them away from of the area," she explained.

No human being or other living things can hear or be affected by the sounds, she adds.

"The machine can be placed in any area where people sit or sleep. It is portable - which means it can be used almost anywhere," she says.

Innovation of the machine

When Paulina joined Jangwani High School in 2018, taking Physics, Chemistry and Biology (PCB), she was not aware that the subjects would create something helpful to the society and make some money.

Paulina's dream was to be a surgeon and that is still vivid.

Currently, she is at the University of Dar es Salaam studying a medical programme.

"My current bigger dreams are becoming a professional surgeon and the owner of a mosquito repellant company," she says.

At school, she met Bupe Mayala, Julieth Moisori, Nia Mfaume and Grace Yusto. The four are her classmates and co-developers of the machine.

The five joined the Future STEM Business Leaders (FSL) programme in June 2018. The programme is managed by the Dar Teknohama Business Incubator with a view to supporting science students from high schools to apply their studies to solve local problems and earn money through the creation of science-based businesses.

"It was a normal class session when our Physics teacher told us about the programme. He said any student with interest could volunteer and I was the first to accept the offer and so my colleagues," she says.

Science students from six high schools participated in the programme for consecutive three years and Paulina's crew emerged the winner after developing such a machine.

The five students from each school spent three months in a seminar, studying how they could use their normal science studies to solve problems to the societies and turn the ideas into businesses.

They spent another week at the University of Dar es Salaam's Department of Economics, learning how to do businesses.

"After the long learning period, the facilitators told us to find scientific ideas which could help our societies and be good business," Paulina says.

Each school in groups of five members, she says, had a task of coming up with the brilliant idea and competing with others.

Paulina's crew came up with different ideas but did not stick to their ambition to win.

"It was during a deep discussion, when the idea of mosquito and malaria kicked in. We then tried to find something new in the most researched field," she said.

After doing some research they found that the majority of technologies designed to fight malaria suggest killing mosquitoes.

"We wanted to fight malaria while keeping the mosquitoes alive. We, as scientists, believe that the insects are still important in the environmental ecosystem and biodiversity," she says.

They finally designed the machine which is portable, noiseless to other living things and friendly to the environment.

"We prepared a PowerPoint presentation for the competition. As the project manager, I presented it before our tutors and competitors," she recalls, with a bright smile.

Paulina's group won the competition at first place and was granted a practical study at Gngali Model firm, an inspiring and empowering platform for Africans to give back to their rural communities through innovative appropriate technologies in Arusha.

They spent six weeks in Arusha for practical studies where they also got management, accounting, supervision and customer care service skills.

Future plans

It costs up to Sh80,000 to manufacture one machine, she says, as they plan to sell it at wholesale price of Sh100,000 and retailing it at Sh120,000.

"We are currently struggling to register our business name and copyright of the business," she says.

Their mega future plan, according to her, is to open up a factory for the company.

However, capital remains the big challenge for them as they need not less than Sh25 million to establish the factory and start manufacturing the machines.

Another challenge is long distances among them as each of them studies in different universities.

The second Future Stem Business Leaders (FSL) programme was launched in 2021, consisting of science students from eight high schools in Dar es Salaam and Arusha regions.

During the launch, Dr Amos Nungu, the director general of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (Costech) said the project, which will support technological revolution in the country, had come at the right time in the country, as the government was pushing its economic industrialization agenda.

"There are many opportunities available in technology, particularly those that help to simplify work and improve performance in various areas such as the social and economic life. Hence banking on technology is the right thing to do. We need to invest massively in this area," said Dr Nungu.

Programme manager Josephine Sepeku said the project helps science students and their teachers to learn how to turn their acquired knowledge into opportunities including finding solutions to various issues.

"We target high school students studying physics, chemistry, biology and geography subjects because they acquire knowledge and skills, which they don't know where to take. So, now they will be taught about the issues of administration, marketing and finance management so as to help them in their activities after school," said Ms Sepeku.

However, she said they would be increasing two more schools every year so as to reach out to more students studying science and develop those students with innovative ideas.

The secretary of the Physics community in the country, Dr Mlyuka Nuru, said science subjects, particularly physics, were normal lessons that could be taken up by any person unlike what people generally thought about them.

"The main problem is the fear that causes many people to shun Science subjects, which are really easy to learn - and the acquired knowledge can be turned into prosperity, unlike other subjects," said Dr Nuru, who doubles as a lecturer of Physics at the University of Dar e Salaam.

The objective is to help students translate what they learn in theory in the classroom into productive practical knowledge.

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