MIT to host hackathon to build solutions to support Africa’s critical needs during pandemic


Deadline to register is Tuesday, April 28

Cambridge, Mass., April 27, 2020— Despite the slow arrival of COVID-19 to Africa, much of the continent is now at tremendous risk. On May 1-3, 2020, MIT will host the Africa Takes on COVID-19 Challenge, the third in a series of MIT-led hackathons designed to create solutions to address critical needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

The deadline to apply for participation is Tuesday, April 28, 2020 before midnight. Please visit for more information and the application.

During the MIT Africa Takes on COVID-19 Challenge, teams from around the world—drawing from universities, industry, government, and NGOs, among others—will help create solutions to address the most critical unmet needs caused by the COVID-19 outbreak across the continent.

“The problem statements are built around issues faced by many on the African continent, including the impact of social distancing in densely populated urban areas, as well as ensuring reliable electricity access for healthcare facilities,” says Benjamin Boutboul, MIT Sloan MBA ‘20, an event organizer. “Currently, we have a team of MIT students plus faculty and staff working on this. The commitment to make an impact is inspiring.”

Participants will form teams on Friday, May 1 to hone in on the problems and generate solutions, including proof of concepts, prototypes, and preliminary vision for execution. On Sunday, May 3, teams will reconvene to present their work. After the weekend, the teams judged as having the most promising ideas will have the opportunity to co-develop and implement their solutions with the support of collaborators. Among the collaborators joining the challenge are, among others:

  • MIT Sloan School of Management’s Global Programs
  • The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship
  • MIT Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship
  • MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI)
  • Africa Innovate Conference 2020
  • MIT Sloan Africa Business Club
  • TRUE Africa
  • MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP)
  • The Clinton Foundation
  • Northern Arizona University

The challenge is built to last beyond May 3, both for implementing solutions for Africa and creating new hackathons for other regions and other needs. “Global health and local health are clearly interconnected,” says Stu Krusell, senior director at MIT Sloan Global Programs, an organizing sponsor of the event. “We never lose sight of the importance of creating viable, sustainable, and implementable solutions. This is all about creating ideas made to matter.”

The first, COVID-19 IDEAathon, was held on March 21, 2020 and the second, Beating the Pandemic, was held on April 3-5, 2020.

“During our last challenge when we focused on global issues related to COVID-19, we had 1,500 participants from 49 states and 100 countries,” says Freddy Nguyen, one of the event organizers and the Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT and a pathology resident at Mount Sinai Hospital. “We look forward to similar success with this one – the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.”