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African engineers to compete on innovation

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The Royal Academy of Engineering has announced the opening of the second Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

The Africa Prize, now in its second year, recognises ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines. It aims to stimulate and celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship, highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development.

Engineering innovators who work and live in sub-Saharan Africa and can provide a letter of support from a university or research institution are invited to enter.

Successful entrants chosen for the shortlist will receive extensive mentoring and training to develop their innovation and entrepreneurial skills, and the final winner will receive £25,000, while runners-up will be awarded £10,000 each.
Entries close at midnight 29 June 2015.

Following entries from 15 African countries, the 2014-2015 Africa Prize finalists have been chosen from a shortlist of 12, and are preparing for their final presentations.

The finalists are:
* Dr Askwar Hilonga from Tanzania for his low-cost sustainable water filtration system;
* Ernst Pretorius from South Africa for a fence-mounted security system;
* Musenga Silwawa and team from Zambia for their spot fertiliser applicator; and
* Samuel Wangui and team from Kenya for Chura, a SIM-card-swapping service.

“The Africa Prize prompted me to reconsider my business plan and identify prototype functionalities I’d never thought of. I will always be grateful to the Royal Academy of Engineering for organising the Prize,” says Ernst Pretorius, Africa Prize finalist and creator of the Fencesitter warning device.

“The mentorship programme and training have completely changed the business plan for my innovation,” says Dr Askwar Hilonga, Tanzanian finalist and Nanofilters inventor. “I’ve found new sources of interest-free loans and seed capital, changed the way I see my customers and learnt to communicate with them better. The impact is much greater than I imagined.”

The Africa Prize is an initiative of the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), with support from the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund, Consolidated Contractors Company, ConocoPhillips and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

“The four Africa Prize finalists represent a good cross-section of African engineering talent,” says Africa Prize judge Stephen Dawson, a venture capitalist and chairman of Jacana Partners in the UK.

The eight other shortlisted innovators from the first Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation also received six months of mentorship and training. Their innovations are:
* An affordable multi-purpose degreaser/cleaner (by Justin Nwaogwugwu from Nigeria);
* A full-cycle sanitation service to reduce pollution to the environment and prevent diarrheal disease (by Samuel Malinga and team from Uganda);
* An industrial process and quality control system for the fluids manufacturing industry (by Dr Reinhardt Kotzé and team from South Africa);
* A mobile application for merchants and customers to make and receive card payments through their phones and tablets (by Ayodele Adigun and team from Nigeria);
* A mobile device application that teaches children how to read Shona (by Ian Mutamiri and team from Zimbabwe);
* A removable burglar-bar system for emergency exits from buildings (by Captain Abubakar Imam from Nigeria);
* Portable crushing machines for small and medium size mining operations (by Rujeko Masike and team from Zimbabwe); and
* The mechanical pressing of bananas to produce enzyme-free clear banana juice (by Dr Oscar Kibazohi and team from Tanzania).