The United Kingdom's Royal Academy of Engineering has announced the 16 finalists for their 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The shortlist announcement was made in Cape Town, South Africa and it includes African innovators who have made things such as a smart library on wheels, 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 annual prize aims to recognise ambitious African innovators who are developing scalable engineering solutions to local challenges 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. 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,” said Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize judge and Cameroonian entrepreneur.

Some of the shortlisted finalists for the UK's Royal Academy of Engineering's 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Supporting Africa's innovators

During the previous event held in Kampala, Uganda, Neo Hutiri, a 31-year-old South African electrical engineer has won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Hutiri became the first South African ever to win the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

The 2020 shortlist represents six countries, including, for the first time, Malawi. Six of the 16-strong shortlist are also female innovators, highlighting how diverse Africa's innovation ecosystem is across all levels.

Alumni of the Prize are projected to impact over three million lives in the next five years and have already created over 1,500 jobs and raised more than $14 million in grants and equity.

Africa Prize judges Dr John Lazar CBE FREng and Mariéme Jamme present South African Neo Hutiri of Pelebox with the Africa Prize winner's medal.

Launched by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, the annual Africa Prize awards crucial commercialisation support to the innovators who are transforming their local communities. 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.

The African innovators

A unique package of support will be provided to the shortlist over the next eight months to help them accelerate their businesses. The benefits of selection include comprehensive and tailored business training, bespoke mentoring, funding and access to the Academy’s network of high profile, experienced engineers and business experts in the UK and across Africa.

Following this period of support, four finalists are selected and invited to pitch their improved innovation and business plan to the judges and a live audience. A winner is selected to receive £25,000, and three runners up receive £10,000.

The shortlisted candidates for the 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation are:

The shortlisted technologies and candidates are:

  • 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 – a 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
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