Five Kenyans have been shortlisted for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, run by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering, which recognizes ambitious African innovators who are developing scalable engineering solutions to local challenges.
The 16-strong shortlist were recently announced in Cape Town, South Africa.
Samuel Rigu from Safi Organics developed a process that turns crop waste into a range of affordable fertilisers; while Justine Abuga’s innovation, Solar Jiko, is a heat storage system that allows rural schools to cook food quickly and easily without firewood.
Tracy Kimathi, one of the six women on the shortlist, created a solar system that powers communal refrigeration storage spaces in rural Kenya and called it the Tree_Sea.mals Mini-Grid.
Two of the innovations use invasive water hyacinth harvested from Lake Victoria: Jack Oyugi’s Aquaprotein is an affordable protein supplement for animal feed, and Richard Arwa uses the plant to make CIST Ethanol Fuel, a clean cooking ethanol.
This year’s shortlist also includes the creators of a smart library on wheels, and bamboo bicycles made from recycled parts.
The 2020 shortlist represents six countries, including, for the first time, Malawi.
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.
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.
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.
“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 2020 shortlist includes innovations disrupting essential industries for economic development, such as energy and agriculture. They range from a containerised system that uses burning biomass to preserve crops, a quick and accurate probe to measure humidity in grains, a set of apps that help prevent food waste, a heat storage system that allows rural schools to cook food quickly and easily without firewood, facial recognition software to prevent financial fraud, and an anti-bacterial soap that makes use of discarded crop waste.
This year also features a number of innovations to improve energy access, such as a solar grid management system that helps users manage energy use remotely, and an off-grid power and refrigeration system gets small commercial operations in arid, rural regions operating on par with those in cities.
Recycling is also a theme, as the list also sees a water filtration process that uses waste like bones and coconut shells to provide safe drinking water without expensive equipment, and a set of digital and hardware tools to control the collection, sale and shredding of recyclable plastics.
- 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