Kenya’s FarmDrive, a financial technology company that collects data and provides an alternative risk assessment model for small holder farmers to improve access to finance is among the top 10 nominees set to compete for the 2017 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) set to be held in Accra, Ghana on 18th July 2017.

FarmDrive realized that most financial institutions are reluctant to grant credit to farmers because their risk assessment models flag small farmers as being very risky and it therefore aims to asses credit worthiness of farmers to lead to higher acceptance rate of loan applications by farmers while maintaining a very low default rate.

The nine other innovators are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt,  Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe in fields such as agriculture value chain, health care, energy, communications, service industries as well as surveillance using drone technology.

Now celebrating its sixth year under the theme “African Innovation: Investing in Prosperity”, IPA is offering a grand share-prize of US$185 000 and incentives to spur growth and prosperity in Africa through home-grown solutions. To date, IPA has attracted more than 7 500 innovators from 52 African countries.

IPA 2017 edition witnessed a record number of entries from over 2 530 innovators across 48 African countries. The Foundation has supported past winners and nominees with approximately US$ 1 million to move their innovations forward. IPA past winners have gone on to secure over US$30 million in investments to grow and scale their businesses.

Other innovations include:

Nokwethu Khojane, South Africa: Lakheni, a social and business model innovation which seeks to aggregate low-income households into buying-groups in order to negotiate favourable discounts for goods and services supplied to these households. Lakheni solves this problem by aggregating poor households into a buyer’s market by leveraging mobile technology.

Omolabake Adenle, Nigeria: Voice Recognition and Speech Synthesis Software for African Languages. This is a software solution that can understand and digitize spoken African languages, and synthesize speech from African languages presented as digitized text. The software can be integrated into a wide range of devices and third-party software applications. While voice recognition and speech synthesis software have been developed for various Western and Asian languages, there has been very limited commercial application or academic research for African languages. The difficulty lies in modelling tonality present in most African languages and limited data resources for language modelling.

Nzola Swasisa, Democratic Republic of Congo: Lokole, a device that enables access to efficient email communication anywhere with cellular coverage at a price that is one hundred to one thousand times cheaper than accessing email via regular cellular bandwidth costs. Lokole achieves this firstly by creating a shareable local area network where up to a hundred users within a 25 meters’ radius can access the network and share the costs. Secondly, it contains advanced algorithms that compress email and also schedules uploads and downloads of data to when data bundles costs are at their cheapest. Costs per user could be as little as $0.01/person/day.

Badr Idriss from Morocco with Atlan Space which develops software technology that is then deployed to manage the operations of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

The software is currently tested for use in managing operations in detecting illegal or harmful maritime activity such as illegal fishing or oil spills over wide expanse areas. UAVs operated by this software can be launched and deployed into monitoring operations without having an aircraft operator. Also, by using Artificial Intelligence they are able to collect data, analyze and produce actionable reports.  African governments face numerous challenges in monitoring activities and operation over wide areas. This includes border patrols, deforestation, animal poaching and maritime activity. The software allows for the deployment of UAVs at a very cost effective price without need for highly skilled human intervention and over a wide number of uses.

Aly El-Shafei from Egypt with Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuator Journal Integrated Bearing “SEMAJIB”  which is a smart bearing which is versatile and can change its characteristics as it operates.  It consists of a magnetic bearing imbedded in an oil-filled journal bearing, thus forming the smart controllable bearing. The flooding of the bearing with oil is a game changer as the purpose of bearings has traditionally been to expel oil.  There is a significant improvement in turbine performance using the SEMAJIB particularly in single line combined cycle plants, as well as conventional generator technology.  The device is designed to be used to support energy generating turbines and can be used to improve efficiency and reduce costs of generating energy in Africa.

In healthcare, Dougbeh-Chris Nyan from Liberia developed a New Technology for Rapid Detection of Many Infections Using Only One Test. This is a rapid diagnostic test that can detect and simultaneously differentiate at least three to seven infections at the same time within 10 to 40 minutes.

Nigeria’s Olanisun Olufemi Adewole developed a Sweat TB Test, A non-invasive rapid skin test to detect Tuberculosis which leverages on TB specific marker in sweat of patients, to produce a point- of- care test to detect TB, within ten minutes, without any needle prick. In simple steps, reports are read and patients commenced on medication as needed at the same clinic visit. It has the potential to contribute towards effectively controlling TB, reduce TB related deaths and holds promise to prevent drug resistance TB in Africa.

Zimbabwe’s Gift Gana developed Dr. CADx, a software solution that helps doctors and health care workers diagnose medical images more accurately. Due to the scarcity of radiologists on the continent, most medical images are read by general doctors or other health care workers who lack expertise and end up misdiagnosing more than 30% of the cases that they review.

Uganda’s Philippa Ngaju Makobore developed a Electronically Controlled Gravity Feed Infusion Set (ECGF), a medical device designed to accurately administer intravenous (IV) fluids and drugs by controlling the rate of fluid flow based on feedback from a drop sensor. The ECGF solves this problem as it is very easy to operate and has key safety features which include alarms for rate of infusion (rapid or slow), total volume (over or under) and faulty sensors. A battery utilizing a hybrid (AC mains and solar) charging bed powers the device. The ECGF has the potential to save lives by providing accuracy and safety at 8% the cost of a brand-new infusion pump.