By Gift Briton
A shortlist of 15 African entrepreneurs and their pioneering technologies aimed at environmental rehabilitation, education, and human health and safety have been selected for the 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The 2023 shortlist represents ten African countries, including for the first time Angola and Sierra Leone, and demonstrates the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and sustained economic development.
Other countries whose nationals have been selected are Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Launched in 2014, the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is awarded annually by the Royal Academy of Engineering to ambitious African innovators creating local and scalable solutions to pan-African and international challenges.
The innovations shortlisted for the 2023 award are those that tackle challenges central to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, good health and wellbeing, and clean energy, good health and wellbeing, and quality education.
Rebecca Enonchong Freng, Founder and CEO of AppsTech and Africa Prize judge, said, “Climate change is impacting Africa more severely than other continents, with agricultural production, food security and water resources being compromised, compounded by a weak adaptive capacity. This year, 11 of our innovations are contributing directly to environmental sustainability.”
Indeed, several water innovations are featured in the shortlist, including a real-time water quality monitoring and control system, an acid mine drainage solution to recycle contaminated water for human consumption, a portable unit that uses fish waste to boost production of vegetables, and a water management system to prevent excess borehole pumping and drying out of aquifers.
In addition, energy and environmental solutions also feature prominently. For instance, there is a power pack with recycled laptop batteries to address unreliable power supply, converted motorbikes that run on batteries, an electric cargo bike with a battery-powered fridge to reduce post-harvest loss, a system to help prepare waste for recycling, a mobile machine to create interlocking compressed earth bricks, and an eco-friendly cooking stove that absorbs black carbon.
What is more, several entrepreneurs shortlisted have pioneered solutions in health, safety and education, with a portable hysteroscopy device for simple examination of the uterus, a remote healthcare monitoring system that records and transmits patient data, a multi-strain probiotic to improve the gut health of chickens, a local rescue network connecting neighbours with the police, and a robotics learning tool for children.
Innovators shortlisted for the Africa Prize will benefit from a unique package of support including business incubation, mentoring, fundraising and communications.
The package also includes access to the Academy’s global network of high-profile and highly experienced engineers and business experts in the UK and Africa.
Four finalists will be chosen to pitch their innovations and business plans to Africa Prize judges at an event in Accra, Ghana, on 6 July 2023. The winner will receive £25,000, and three runners up will win £10,000 each. An additional One-to-Watch award of £5,000 will be given to the most promising entrepreneur from the remaining shortlist.
The 2023 shortlisted entrepreneurs join the Academy’s 134-strong Africa Prize alumni network, which includes innovators who have achieved significant commercial success and social impact across the continent following their participation in the Prize, such as 2022 winner Norah Magero, and her portable solar-powered fridge solution for transporting medicines.
Africa Prize alumni are projected to have an impact on more than three million people in the next five years, and have already created 3,585 jobs – including 1,766 for women and 211 for persons with disabilities – and raised more the USD 14 million in grants and equity funding, directly contributing to 12 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The programme is currently seeking additional partners and funders to help to positively impact millions more.
Below is a summary of the shortlisted innovations and entrepreneurs (See their Photos)
- Affordable AMD Solution, Boitumelo Nkatlo, South Africa – A technology to treat acid mine drainage (AMD) using industrial waste to recycle contaminated water for human consumption.
- Aquaset, Obed Zar, Ghana – A smart water management system that monitors water levels in boreholes and water tanks, regulating the rate at which water is pumped and preventing pump breakdowns and water waste.
- Arobot, Cristovão Cacombe, Angola – A robotics learning tool for children that must be assembled and programmed to perform specific tasks.
- Digital Aquaponics, Flavien Kouatcha Simo, Cameroon – A portable fish farm that uses fish waste as a fertiliser to produce organic vegetables, enabling small-scale farmers to increase production.
- Electric Mobility, Chukwuemeka Eze, Nigeria – An e-mobility service that converts gas-powered three-wheel motorbikes to run on batteries, saving up to 60% on running costs.
- FlexiGyn, Edmund Wessels, South Africa – A portable device enabling gynaecologists to diagnose and treat uterine health issues without anaesthetic.
- MEDBOX, Emmanuel Ofori Devi, Ghana – A healthcare monitoring system that records a patient’s vital signs and transmits them to doctors who then provide remote medical advice.
- Multi-Purpose Earth Brick Machine, Fikru Gebre Dikumbab, Ethiopia – A manually-operated portable machine to make interlocking compressed earth bricks using 90%-95% soil and 5%-10% cement.
- ProbiGal, Dr Deon Neveling, South Africa – A host-specific multi-strain probiotic designed to promote gut health and prevent bacterial infections in chickens, reducing the need for antibiotics.
- Smart Green Stove, Margaret Yainkain Mansaray, Sierra Leone – An efficient non-electric cooking device designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health risks, slashing energy use by 70%.
- Smart Water Tech, Allen Chafa, Zimbabwe – A real time water quality monitoring and control system to address water borne diseases.
- ThinkBikes CoolMAX, Tolulope Olukokun, Nigeria – An electric cargo bike with a battery powered fridge to help Nigeria’s smallholder farmers get fresh food crops to market.
- WAGA Power Pack, Gibson Kawago, Tanzania – A power pack made with recycled laptop batteries to provide reliable and affordable power for electric bikes, power banks, solar lights, businesses and homes.
- Waste-to-Wealth Enhancer, Cletus Ekpoh, Nigeria – A four-part recycling system to help informal waste collectors.
- YUNGA, Anatoli Kirigwajjo, Uganda – A local digital network connected through a physical device utilising the Internet of Things to provide security at a low cost in under-resourced communities.