Four innovators from Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda have been selected from a shortlist of 16 to compete for the £50,000 Africa Prize in its tenth anniversary year.
Their innovations address recycling in construction, AI tools for healthcare and farming, and reengineered waste collection
The three runners up will each receive £15,000, and a £5,000 prize – titled ‘One to Watch’ – will be awarded to one of the shortlist whose business shows the most potential
Since 2014 the Africa Prize has supported almost 150 entrepreneurs across 23 African countries, generating over 28,000 jobs and benefitting more than 10 million people through the innovative products and services developed
The Royal Academy of Engineering will host the final of the 10th Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, the continent’s largest engineering prize, on 13 June 2024 in Nairobi, Kenya.

From an initial shortlist of 16 innovators creating sustainable, scalable engineering solutions on the continent, four finalists have been selected to present their innovations to the judges in front of both a live and online audience.

In 2024, the four finalists have developed solutions including an environmentally-friendly roofing material made from recycled plastic, a smart healthcare platform providing direct access to vital healthcare information via WhatsApp, a location-based mobile app connecting customers to independent agents for on-demand rubbish collection and disposal, and a solar-powered tool using AI and machine learning-enabled cameras to detect and identify agricultural pests and diseases.

These innovations directly address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities and climate action.

This year’s winner will receive a prize of £50 000, with the other three finalists receiving £15 000 each. The prize is double the amount of previous years in recognition of the Africa Prize’s 10-year anniversary.

The other shortlisted innovators will also be given one minute each to present their innovations, and an audience poll will select one of them to receive an award of £5 000. This prize, the ‘One to Watch’, is awarded in honour of a late alumnus of the Africa Prize, Ghanaian Martin Bruce, co-founder of Young at Heart. It is awarded to a member of the shortlist who the audience identifies as one to watch in the future.

The awards form part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s investment of over £1-million to African innovators through grants, prizes and accelerator programme places during the 10th anniversary year of the Africa Prize.

The 2024 Africa Prize finalists were selected from a shortlist of innovators who are applying engineering to solve problems faced by their communities. The finalist selection took place following an eight-month training and mentoring programme, during which experts provided tailored, one-on-one support designed to accelerate and strengthen the businesses of each member of the shortlist.

Training covered business plans, scaling, recruitment, IP protection, sector-specific engineering mentoring, communication, financing and commercialisation.

The 2024 finalists are:

Early Crop Pest and Disease Detection Device, Esther Kimani, Kenya:

* A solar-powered tool utilising AI and machine learning-enabled cameras to swiftly detect and identify agricultural pests and diseases, reducing crop losses for smallholder farmers by up to 30% while increasing yields by as much as 40%.

* Kimani’s innovation not only provides real-time alerts within five seconds of an infestation, offering tailored intervention suggestions, but also alerts government agricultural officers to the presence of diseases or pests, contributing to broader agricultural management efforts.

* This affordable alternative to traditional detection methods leases for just $3 per month, significantly cheaper than hiring drones or agricultural inspectors, and also provides valuable data for policymakers through an agricultural live-tracking data dashboard.

Eco Tiles, Kevin Maina, Kenya:

* An environmentally friendly roofing material made from recycled plastic. Stronger and lighter than clay or concrete tiles, the innovation is a dual solution to plastic pollution and high building costs.

* Kevin and his team work with 500 informal waste collectors who provide plastics, including high-density polymers and lighter polyethene.

* The innovative manufacturing process involves a custom-made extrusion machine that blends different plastics at varying temperatures, eliminating the need for energy-intensive processes like kiln-burning and reducing carbon emissions. The tiles are enhanced with UV stabilisation chemicals and construction sand to improve durability and sturdiness.

* With a production rate of 1 500 tiles daily, each tile is pressed in a minute. Half a million Eco Tiles have been used to date in the construction of 348 houses.

La Ruche Health, Rory Assandey, Côte d’Ivoire:

* La Ruche Health connects communities to vital health information, advice, and services through “Kiko”, an AI chatbot tool available on WhatsApp and mobile apps, and a digital backend solution to streamline documentation, billing, and data sharing for practitioners.

* Recognising the fragmented healthcare network in Côte d’Ivoire, La Ruche Health addresses accessibility barriers for the 43% of the population with limited literacy skills.

* Kiko serves as the patient’s initial point of contact, offering personalised screening and facilitating appointments with qualified healthcare professionals.

* By May 2024, the AI has facilitated over 150 000 user interactions and 189 in-home and teleconsultation appointments, processing over $18 000 in medical billings, illustrating its effectiveness and scalability.

Yo-Waste, Martin Tumusiime, Uganda:

* Addressing Uganda’s mounting waste crisis, Yo-Waste is a location-based mobile application that connects homes and businesses to independent agents for efficient on-demand rubbish collection and disposal.

* The technology uses routing and scheduling algorithms to optimise waste collection routes, which reduces costs and improves efficiency. It has GPS location technology to pinpoint collection points, which overcomes the challenge of people not having official addresses in informal residential areas.

* Yo-Waste currently serves over 1 500 customers including homes, businesses, and waste collection agents, with a goal to reach 20 000 users by 2026.

* With only 40% of waste disposed of properly in Africa, Yo-Waste’s innovative approach tackles environmental pollution and health hazards caused by open dumpsites.

Africa Prize Judge Dr John Lazar CBE FREng says: “The Royal Academy of Engineering has supported almost 150 entrepreneurs across 23 African countries. Our active alumni network offers lifelong support to our growing community, which has created more than 28 000 jobs, with more than 10-million people having benefitted from shortlisted innovations over the past decade. This is why in 2024, the Academy is investing more than £1-million in our alumni through grants, prizes and accelerator programme awards to facilitate longer-term success of their innovations.

“2024 has been one of our most difficult shortlists to decide yet. We had a record number of applications which we shortlisted down to sixteen, and now we’ve narrowed it down to our four exceptional finalists. Esther Kimani, Kevin Maina, Rory Assandey and Martin Tumusiime are examples of engineering excellence in Africa, and the Royal Academy of Engineering is proud to have played a part in their development journeys. These are individuals who we know will inspire the next generation of changemakers on the continent. Choosing a winner is not going to be easy.”

The remaining shortlisted innovators are now eligible for the “One to Watch” award worth £5 000, for which they will compete for the public’s vote at the Africa Prize final. The innovations are:

* Beba-Beggie, Charles Oduk, Kenya – An IoT automated locker technology offering affordable, accessible, secure and convenient short-term storage.

* Biomass Briquettes, Ludo Ntshiwa, Botswana – An environmentally-friendly clean fuel that harnesses the green energy of biowaste to produce a renewable energy source for heat production as a substitute for charcoal.\

* Kiri EV, Christopher Maara, Kenya – An end-to-end affordable and clean energy mobility provider, from electric motorcycles, scooters and tuktuks to battery charging infrastructure across Kenya.

* Kuza Freezer, Purity Gakuo, Kenya – A durable low-cost solar-powered fridge freezer made from recycled plastic waste.

* MakSol Cooker, Paul Soddo, Uganda – A low-cost, solar-powered induction oven and hob designed for safe, zero-emissions indoor cooking by people in off-grid communities.

* MAVUNOLAB Solar Dryer, Dr Evodius Rutta, Tanzania – A low-cost solar-powered dryer developed to help small-scale fish processors and farmers in off-grid locations by enhancing food safety and hygiene for perishable food products.

* Microfuse Stick Computer, Ivan Karugaba, Uganda – A compact and affordable device that plugs in to any screen, projector or monitor to transform it into a Wi-Fi-connected computer, increasing computer access and digital inclusivity.

* Myco-Substitutes, Abubakari Zarouk Imoro, Ghana – An eco-friendly sewage treatment that uses viruses, bacteria, and fungi to treat and feed on faecal waste and produce yarn and leather substitutes.

* PenKeep, Adaeze Akpagbula, Nigeria – A climate-smart remote sensing device that monitors and controls environmental conditions in poultry farms, ensuring optimal health and productivity of chickens.

* Second-Life Batteries, Léandre Berwa, Rwanda – A solution that repurposes retired electric vehicle (EV) batteries to be assembled as a back-up power supply for telecom towers and mini electricity grids.

* The Kitchen Box, Tunde Adeyemi, Nigeria – An affordable biogas digester technology which turns any type of organic waste into animal feed and organic fertiliser, and generates clean energy for heating and cooking.