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Scientist’s software halves industrial production cost

By DANN OKOTH | June 18th 2014
Dr Moses Makayoto whose insecticide fights filth flies in refugee camps. [Photo: Dann Okoth/Standard]

A Kenyan scientist’s ingenious innovative skills are saving companies billions of shillings in industrial process costs and impacting millions of lives worldwide through affordable products.

Dr Moses Makayoto, the chief research scientist and head of Kenya Industrial and Research Development Institute (Kirdi) Enterprise is a well known scientist locally and abroad.

Makayoto’s name first hit the global scientific pulse when he developed a computer software that cuts chemical engineering processes by nearly half, while studying for a doctorate in chemical engineering at the Technical University of Norway in 1985.

Since then, the software has been adopted around the world by industries thereby cutting down their operational costs. A trickle-down effect in lower consumer prices is another marked benefit of the technology.

“The information technology-based method calculates the ingredients involved in a chemical engineering process better than manual calculation methods,” says Makayoto.

“The design reduces the amount of time and resources invested in the process by more than half,” he adds.

It encompasses financial requirements, equipment specification, environmental safety and human resource needs necessary in any chemical engineering.

Makayoto has 14 international awards under his belt. He was named among the Top 100 Scientist in the World by International Biographical Centre (IBC) Cambridge, Britain, in 2002 and scooped the IBC International Scientist of the Year award in the same year.

Makayoto also invented a pesticide used to control filth fly, especially in crowded environments like refugee camps.

He developed the product while heading the biotechnology research unit at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).

Icipe had been called in to address a filth fly menace in the refugee camps that was causing disease and death.

“The filth fly was posing a serious health risk to refugees in the camp and my team and I at Icipe decided to do something about it,” he says.

“We developed the insecticide from microbes. The microbes had no side effects on humans.”

Older folk may remember the Mama Safi washing detergent that was a household brand name in the 1980s.

He headed the research that invented the detergent made from cheap local materials. While working as the chief scientist for then East Africa Industries (now Unilever East Africa), Makayoto convinced the company to use local resources to manufacture a cheap detergent. The company had always relied on imported materials for detergent production.

“I argued that locally obtained materials could be useful if the right technology was applied,” he recalls. “The company executives bought the idea.”

The new product would become so popular in the local market that it offered stiff competition to traditional brands like Omo, which was also produced by the same company.

For fear of internal competition, production of Mama Safi was discontinued in early 1990.

Lately, Makayoto has a knack for public speaking.

His speeches at international gatherings inspire listeners and as a result, the invitations have been coming his way. 

In 2009, he was the main speaker at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in Arusha, Tanzania.

TED is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”.

Founded in 1984, TED has been an annual global conference since 1990 and high achievers in their specific fields are invited to speak.

Makayoto’s profile was published in the 6th USA Edition of the Marquis Who’s Who in science and engineering in the 21st Century in 2002 and 2003.

He was the first black African to make it into the book.

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