Tanzanian inventor steals the show with water purification technology

Thursday December 12 2019

Dr Askwar Hilonga, a chemical engineer with the

Dr Askwar Hilonga, a chemical engineer with the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) briefing people on his water purification technology during a recent event. PHOTO|FILBERT RWEYEMAMU 

Arusha. A Tanzanian scientist was the centre of attraction here on Tuesday for his award-winning invention in water purification technology.

Dr Askwar Hilonga, whose innovation is set to address the problem of water-borne diseases, was described as ‘a game changer.’

“He innovated a nano-filter material for ridding water of harmful germs,” said the deputy minister for Education, Science and Technology, William Ole Nasha.

He said during an international scientific conference that water contaminated with germs is among the infections “causing the highest mortality and morbidity in Tanzania”.

Dr Hilonga, a senior lecturer at the Nelson Mandela Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), has won multiple international awards for the feat.

“The impact of his innovation on the communities in Arusha and neighbouring regions is quite vivid,” Mr Ole Nasha pointed out.

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He spoke when he was opening the 10th International Conference of the African Materials Research Society (AMRS2019) at the Arusha-based Nelson Mandela Institute.

Mr Ole Nasha noted the invention, if widely disseminated, would reduce water borne diseases which, he said, was behind a financial burden on the health budget.

Besides purifying water from harmful germs, nanofilters also clean water from harmful minerals to bones and teeth.

The deputy minister told the scientists the amount of flouride causing fluorosis that affects teeth and bones was not only high in Tanzania but in other African countries as well.

According to Dr Hilonga, a 43-year old chemical engineer, the filter has already penetrated to markets in neighbouring Kenya and Zambia.

He told The Citizen recently that the water filters has been sold to 350 households across the country, creating employment for 180 youths.

The filters have also been sold to 49 institutions - and have created 50 stations besides accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship at NM-AIST.

The low-cost water purification system absorbs anything from copper and flouride to bacteria, viruses and pesticides.

Through the innovation, Dr Hilonga has won several international scientific awards, the latest being the UAE Health Foundation Prize won in May this year.

Mr Ole Nasha said the government would strive to ensure the innovation is accessible “to as many Tanzanians as possible” - and urged investors to support its massive production.

The NM-AIST vice chancellor, Prof Emmanuel Luoga, said the technology is a vivid example of how technological solutions were used to address the real needs of society.