Bloem shows off Africa ‘s top female innovator

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Nneile Nkholise (middle) with members of the SA delegation that attended the The World Economic Forum. On the left is Telecommunications and Postal Service Minister, Siyabonga Cwele and on the right Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa took place in Kigali, Rwanda, last week. The forum is of the opinion that unless women are to make a full contribution, Africa will never master the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is why it was decided to showcase Africa’s very best female technology entrepreneurs this year. Bloemfontein-based innovator and entrepreneur, Nneile Nkholise, was selected as one of the five entrants for this year’s Africa’s Top Women Innovators Challenge and walked away with the Africa Top Women Innovators Challenge 2016 at the opening day of the WEF last Wednesday. That makes her the top female innovator in sub-Saharan Africa.
The 27-year-old mechanical engineer, originally from Thaba Nchu, did her Master’s degree in Additive Manufacturing at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein. Her research focused on the area of application of Additive Manufacturing in the medical field, she soon realised the need for breast prosthesis. Nkholise is also the founder of iMedTech Group, a company that uses additive manufacturing to design breast and facial prostheses for cancer and burn victims.
“It is sad to hear that there are women with cancer who do not consider a mastectomy because they do not want to lose a breast. Meanwhile, the cancer is spreading throughout their bodies,” she explains.
She further says even though additive manufacturing has been used in other industries, like car manufacturing, it is only now being applied to medicine.
“The question was how to make better medical devices and products that could benefit the whole field of medicine more cost-effectively in a shorter amount of time. The demand for prostheses in South Africa is very high because of the high rate of cancer survival. We had to create a
product that would make women feel more comfortable when considering a mastectomy. A product which could restore their bodies to what it looked like before the operation,” she says.
Nkholise’s products take into consideration size as well as pigmentation which is established by a colour matching programme. Two of the choices available are custom-designed breast prostheses and implant attachments.
Custom-designed breast prostheses are customised prosthetics designed and manufactured by using CAD methods and additive manufacturing processes. The products are uniquely designed by scanning techniques to capture the anatomy of the customer. Then the product is designed to match the exact colour pigmentation of the person.
Using her patent registered process and implant attachment, Nkholise offers the highest standard in her product range. The custom implant retained breast prostheses (such as the custom-designed prosthesis) allows the customer to acquire a prosthesis uniquely designed for perfect fit and with exact pigmentation that resembles the natural skin colour of the customer. The implant retention allows for the prosthesis to be firmly attached to the chest, giving customers the comfort of having a prosthesis as good as a natural breast.
Nkholise also came third in the national SAB Innovation Awards. The awards honour those innovators who come up with products that assist their communities. This year she is part of a mentorship programme to assist her in realising her dream. With the prize money she won in this competition she is now buying material to start producing her products on a wider scale.
Anyone interested in iMedTech’s work or wants to get hold of Nkholise for more information, can call her on 083-277-1193 or send an email to nkholisen@gmail.com. iMedTech’s website will soon be up and running. – Maricelle Botha
maricelle@centralmediagroup.co.za