The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, has announced its 2020 shortlist, recognizing ambitious African innovators developing scalable engineering solutions to local challenges.
This year’s shortlist includes the creators of a smart library on wheels, facial recognition software to prevent financial fraud, a low-cost digital microscope to speed up cervical cancer diagnosis, bamboo bicycles made from recycled parts, and two innovations made from invasive water hyacinth plants: an animal feed and a cooking fuel.
The 2020 shortlist also represents six countries, including, for the first time, Malawi. Six of the 16-strong shortlist are female innovators.
Launched in 2014 by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the annual Africa Prize awards crucial commercialization support to innovators who are transforming their local communities across Africa.
“For six years we have been humbled to work with African entrepreneurs who use engineering to shift how we think about problems, developing disruptive technologies for everything from energy and agriculture to housing, transport and finance,” said Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize judge and Cameroonian entrepreneur. “These are the local entrepreneurs who are transforming Africa, and we are once again honoured to guide and learn from the brightest minds chosen for the Africa Prize shortlist.”
The Prize has a track record of identifying engineering entrepreneurs with significant potential, endorsing those who, with the support of the Prize, have gone on to achieve greater commercial success and social impact.
Four finalists will be selected and invited to pitch their improved innovation and business plan to judges and a live audience. And the winner will receive US$32,300 (£25,000), and three runners up receive US$13,000 (£10,000).
The Africa Prize provides a unique package of support, including funding, comprehensive business training, bespoke mentoring and access to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s network of high profile, experienced engineers and experts.
Meredith Ettridge, Head of Sustainable Development at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Nurturing thriving commercial companies has a significant role in enabling sustainable development, supporting entrepreneurs to deliver greater job creation, prospects and prosperity in their communities and contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is these benefits, on a local, national and continent-wide level in Africa, that the Prize aims to accelerate.”
In addition to the Africa Prize, the Academy also runs other innovation programmes in Africa. This includes the Africa Innovation Fellowship in partnership with WomEng, which increases female participation in engineering innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent, and the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF) programme, which supports innovators in 16 countries including Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.
Here are the shortlisted innovators:
- Aquaprotein, Jack Oyugi from Kenya – an affordable protein supplement for animal feed, made from invasive water hyacinth
- BACE API, Charlette N’Guessan from Ghana – a system that uses live facial recognition technology to verify identities and prevent financial and online identity fraud
- CATHEL, Catherine Tasankha Chaima from Malawi – an affordable antibacterial soap made from agricultural waste and other plant-based extracts
- CIST Ethanol Fuel, Richard Arwa from Kenya – clean cooking ethanol made from invasive water hyacinth
- DryMac, Adrian Padt from South Africa – a containerised drying system that uses burning biomass instead of electricity to dry and preserve crops
- Eco Water Purifier, Timothy Kayondo from Uganda – a digital system that turns bones, cassava peelings, coconut shells and other waste into an activated carbon water filter
- EcoRide, Bernice Dapaah from Ghana – bamboo bicycles made by Ghanaian women and youth from sustainable materials and recycled parts
- Farmz2U, Aisha Raheem from Nigeria – tech solutions that help farmers and families prevent food waste and enhance nutrition
- Garbage In Value Out (GIVO), Victor Boyle-Komolafe from Nigeria – automates and digitises the collection, processing and sale of recyclable materials
- GrainMate, Isaac Sesi from Ghana – a simple handheld meter to accurately measure the moisture content of grains to prevent rotting, insect infestation and quality reduction
- Lab and Library on Wheels, Josephine Godwyll from Ghana – a mobile, solar-hybrid cart with gadgets and e-learning resources to encourage reading and teach STEAM subjects in under-resourced schools
- PapsAI, Dr William Wasswa from Uganda – a low-cost digital microscope slide scanner and platform that diagnoses and manages cervical cancer in resource-constrained areas
- Remot, David Tusubira from Uganda – a digital platform that connects to off-grid solar systems to allow users to manage and pay for them remotely
- Safi Organics, Samuel Rigu from Kenya – a novel chemical process that turns crop waste into a range of affordable fertilisers
- Solar Jiko, Justine Abuga from Kenya – a heat storage system that allows rural schools to cook food quickly and easily without firewood
- Tree_Sea.mals Mini-Grid, Tracy Kimathi from Kenya – a solar system that powers communal refrigeration storage spaces in rural Kenya
Image: Royal Academy of Engineering