On the morning of March 30 after government officials issued a two-week lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19 in Ghana, a leather shoemaker based in the Ashanti region’s capital city, Kumasi, stared at a recycled barrel and conceived an idea.
“My brother (Jude Osei) and I decided we would create a basin to encourage regular hand-washing etiquette,” Richard Kwarteng, 32, told CNN.
They created a solar-powered hand-washing basin. In one of the first of its kind in the country, they wanted the device to be solar-powered and timed with a sensor, in accordance with the 20-second hand-washing guidance issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They had less than 48 hours to gather supplies before the lockdown took effect. Without hesitation, they headed to a local market for supplies. On the shopping list: a sink, a faucet, a motherboard, a solar panel, a sensor, and an alarm.
When they got home, Kwarteng called a friend and electrician, Amkwaah Boakye, to handle the wiring before the brothers programmed the device to release soapy water when hands or other items came in contact with a sensor stored underneath the faucet. After 25 seconds, an alarm goes off indicating hand-washing is complete, then water is released to rinse hands before drying. The team began and finished the project in five days.
Osei recorded a video of Kwarteng demonstrating how to use the device and posted it on social media. It immediately went viral. “It was amazing to see the shares and likes,” said Kwarteng. “We started getting calls left and right. We were so proud of ourselves,” he added.
Working with the government
In less than two days, Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation contacted the brothers and a meeting has been scheduled to determine if additional machines can be manufactured and placed in cities throughout the country, said Kwarteng.
In an address to the nation in early April, President Akufo-Addo commended the men and acknowledged that the “Ghanaian sense of enterprise and innovation is beginning to be felt.”
Kwarteng says he plans to help stop the spread of the virus by making the device available throughout the continent.
“I pray this pandemic will go away and there are better days ahead,” he said. “We hope this will help people to practice normal hand-washing etiquette and we are very grateful for everyone’s support.”
Ghana currently has more than 4,000 cases of the coronavirus. The invention comes at a time when the global pandemic has begun to pummel parts of Africa, infecting over 53,000 people. Globally, more than 3.9 million people have contracted the virus. At least 274,000 people have died.