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Rwanda opens Africa’s sustainable cooling and cold-chain centre

Honourable Rwanda Minister of the Environment Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya has formally opened the Africa Centre for Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-chain (ACES) .

By late summer 2024, ACES will house an Environment Test Chamber, a groundbreaking facility enabling the testing and eventual certification of equipment tailored to African needs.

Speaking at the launch Hon. Minister Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya commented: “ACES represents a significant milestone in our collective journey towards a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food and health systems for Africa. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions, ACES will empower farmers, healthcare workers, and stakeholders across various sectors to mitigate losses, enhance resilience, and promote sustainable development.”

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The Centre will also host the largest single demonstration of cold-chain equipment of all scales and applications, complemented by state-of-the-art training facilities and inclusive courses.

In less than four years, the project has moved from concept to physical campus in Kigali.  The past six months mark a significant milestone as the Government of Rwanda spearheaded the construction of a brand-new Demo Hall and the extensive refurbishment of the campus. New equipment is now arriving on campus, and into the first outreach SPOKE, in Kenya.

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Simultaneously, at the first SPOKE in Kenya, community outreach programmes are being launched, including a unique “Try Before You Buy” programme giving farmers the opportunity to trial technology before making investments.  All the work is underpinned with a strong cohort of trained trainers and technicians.

There has also been rapid progress to develop more resilient vaccine cold-chains and prepare African healthcare systems for the deployment needs of new vaccine technologies and manage the concurrent challenges from climate change.

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The VaccMap project is using novel digital tracking and accountability technology to systematically determine the precise vaccine losses through the chain. VaccAir will use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to fly vaccines to remote clinics reduce remote vaccine store needs. The programme has also secured regulatory approval for clinic trails of concurrent VSV-Ebola and mRNA-COVID vaccinations for more efficient African healthcare worker protection.

The University of Birmingham plays a leading role in ACES, which is developed with the Governments of UK and Rwanda, UN Environment Programme and University of Rwanda. The partnership includes a consortium of leading UK and international universities (see notes for list) led by the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, the University of Rwanda, and Rwanda Polytechnic in collaboration with world-leading industries.

Toby Peters, Centre for Sustainable Cooling Director and Professor of Cold Economy, University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University commented: “We have highlighted the pivotal role of cold-chain – and indeed cooling – as critical infrastructure especially in the context of a warming world. Today, we have a clear imperative for change.

“With ACES bringing together more than 60 researchers and experts from various countries, including more than half based in Africa and India, as well as industry and international development agencies, we now have the frontline capability to accelerate a resilient, sustainable, and inclusive transformation on a systemic level.”

ACES and the system-level approach are now being recognized as world-leading work that will have real impact on people’s lives globally, aligning closely with key objectives of resilience, sustainability, equality, diversity, and inclusion.  To this end, the programme has already expanded its footprint into India.

Milcah Lukhanyu
Milcah Lukhanyu
I cover tech news across Africa. Drop me an email at [email protected]

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