Zipline set to cover the whole of Ghana

Drone logistics company Zipline is going places in Ghana.

The west African country is set to be only the second on the continent to have countrywide drone based medical deliveries, following confirmation yesterday that the Ghanaian government and Zipline will be opening four more hubs – two this year, and two more in 2022.

In a public lecture to students at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana’s vice president Dr Mahamudu Bawumia was full of praise for the partnership project that his government started with Zipline in Omenako in April 2019 and has since ballooned to Ashanti Mampong, Vobsi and Sefwi Wiawso.

“Ghana was the second country in Africa (after Rwanda) to implement the delivery of medical supplies to remote areas through drones, with four Distribution Centres in Omenako, Mpanya, Vobsi, and Sefwi Wiawso,” Dr Bawumia said. “Two additional centres will become operational in December this year at Anum in the Eastern region (to cover all of the Afram Plains and 90 percent of the Volta region) and Kete-Krachi in the Oti region to cover all districts in the Oti Region, three districts in the Bono East Region (Pru East District, Sene East District, Sene West District) and North East Gonja District of the Savannah Region.”

“The next two distribution centres will be located in Funsi (Upper West) and Kintampo (Bono) in 2022. This will bring Zipline coverage to virtually the whole of Ghana.”

The vice president also revealed that Zipline has delivered three million doses of routine vaccines in rural Ghana since 2020, at an average of 100 flights a day. They also delivered 130,000 inoculations for Covid-19 along with thousands of samples for testing.

Millions of lives have been saved as a result of drone technology intervening in Ghana’s health delivery system, which the vice president claims is the biggest in the world right now; in addition to saving the government a bunch of money.

And of course, the vice president had a personal interest in finally ensuring that more modern and faster means of delivering health implements were introduced in rural Ghana, following the tragedy his father met in 2002.

“It was in September 2002, at Tamale Teaching hospital (in northern Ghana); my father had undergone an operation and he needed blood transfusion, the vice president narrated. “We came out, trying to find blood for my old man. At that time of day, no store was open; the person who had access to the blood we needed was nowhere to be found. We were calling doctors all over trying to find this person. By the time they arrived and finally gave us the blood, my father had died.

Dr Bawumia

“So when I met the Zipline team in Silicon Valley and they told me how their drones could deliver different packages including blood; I remembered the issues I had gone through in 2002 trying to find blood for my father – if only we had a service like Zipline’s in September 2002, perhaps my father could have been saved.

“So I was very passionate in luring Zipline to open up operation in Ghana, because of my personal experiences. It is very important to me that we save mothers during childbirth, save people from snake bites and move vaccines and other medical supplies. I am driven to create an inclusive Ghana, and digitising government operations is the best way for everybody to access services in the country.”

But above all, Dr Bawumia was delighted that the arrival of Zipline in Ghana also brought with it opportunities for young Ghanaians to take up careers in drone and robotics technology. The hubs in the country are all led, managed and operated by locals.

In addition to more hubs, Zipline is also set to introduce the delivery of medicines to homes by the end of the year for bedridden patients who may be unable to leave home or to homes that may be cut-off by floods for example or in emergencies.

“Hospitals and clinics in remote and largely rural communities have a difficult time getting medical supplies especially in times of emergencies involving, for example snake bites, child-birth, blood supplies, floods, etc. Many lives are needlessly lost because the hospitals are unable to access critically needed supplies on time. To address this problem, Ghana opted to partner Zipline, the world’s largest automated on-demand delivery service for medical supplies.”

The vice president’s lecture was themed around how Ghana was leveraging digital technologies to improve service delivery in areas like health delivery, finance, personal identity and government operations

“We have focused on pursuing digitisation as part of our economic strategy because the Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and we must be part of the modern world. There is a growing body of empirical evidence that illustrates the capacity of digital technology to create jobs, significantly boost productivity, increase income and support wealth creation.

“The World Bank, in a 2020 report, observed that well-functioning digital economies are expected to achieve faster growth, offer more innovative services and create more jobs. The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Report estimates that “an increase of 10 percent in a country’s digitisation score fuels a 0.75 percent growth in GDP per capita.

“It is therefore clear that going forward, countries that fail to digitalize their economies are likely to be uncompetitive in the emerging global digital revolution.”

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