Get well soon: students from Senegal develop talking robot nurses
Young entrepreneurs from Senegal are helping to combat COVID-19 with a robot that distributes food and medicine in hospitals.
Innovative ideas, courage and flexibility are sought-after qualities – especially in times of crisis. The story of four young entrepreneurs from Senegal is an excellent example of this. The engineering students from Dakar swiftly adapted their initial business idea in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of working on solar panel cleaners for photovoltaic systems and lockers with built-in WiFi, since April 2020 they have been developing disinfection stations and a robot that can distribute food and medicines in hospitals. The multilingual robot, known as ‘Docteur Car’, is designed to reduce the risk of infected patients passing on the virus to staff and even has basic communication skills. It can ask patients to open doors, for example, or tell them that it hopes they will get well soon when they are discharged.
New start-up thanks to funded training
To allow innovative ideas like the robot to be turned into reality, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH runs an advisory centre in Dakar together with Senegal’s National Youth Employment Agency. As part of the Returning to New Opportunities programme set up by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the centre provides information and advice on topics such as job prospects and training opportunities in Senegal. The cooperation arrangement has been in place since August 2018. Mouhammad, 24, and three colleagues contacted the advisory centre and received advice on their personal and professional development, and training on how to set up a business. Product development support was also provided, giving the young entrepreneurs the necessary tools to operate independently in the future.
First customer acquired
The students already have their first client for a test run: the Centre des Opérations d'Urgence Sanitaire (COUS) – Senegal’s centre for emergency medicine. At the centre’s request, the young engineers are currently developing additional features for the prototype, so that it can carry out tasks such as measuring blood pressure and oxygen levels and calculating a patient's weight.