If you want to see a cardiologist in Cameroon, you’ll have a problem. The central African country has many things – pristine forests, volcanoes and gorillas – but massed ranks of medical specialists are not among them. In a nation of 22 million people, there are just 50 who could help.
Worse, a typical examination costs around $40 (£32), while most people live on less than $5 (£4) per day. Add into the mix a population of mostly rural farmers and some extremely dubious roads and it’s no surprise that the nation has some of the highest rates of heart disease on the continent. In developing nations like Cameroon, eight out of every 10 people will die of heart failure.
Enter Arthur Zang, a tech entrepreneur to make Silicon Valley geniuses blush. He bumped into one of these rare cardiologists in 2009 – when he was still a student – and was inspired to do something to help. He decided that what was needed was a portable tablet which could perform ECGs from remote villages, bypassing the need to travel miles to see a specialist.
He knew it was a great idea, one which could save thousands of lives. There was just one problem: he didn’t know anything about electronics or biomedical engineering – and he didn’t have any money. What ensued was an incredible journey of determination, tragedy and unflinching belief in the power of knowledge.
At just 28, Zang is the proud inventor of the CardioPad and the recipient of numerous awards, including the Rolex Award and the Africa Prize from the Royal Academy of Engineering. In his home town of Yaoundé, he’s something of a local celebrity. In the video above, he explains how he did it.
Join 700,000+ Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram.
If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital, Travel and Autos, delivered to your inbox every Friday.