Six Kenyans shortlisted for Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

A water engineer, former rocket scientist, and education innovators are among the finalists for the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

The four finalists are from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda, and were chosen for their engineering innovations which provide solutions to local problems.

(TOP: Kelvin Gacheru, the Mobi-Water founder who is among the 6 Kenyan nominees).

For the first time, education has topped the Africa Prize list, with two innovations in the final chosen for their great potential to improve how Africans access education.

From Nigeria, systems engineer Godwin Benson developed Tuteria, an online platform that links students to qualified tutors. Users can find tutors within their budget and location to teach them to play the piano, sew clothes, learn a new language and more. Tutors also cover a range of academic subjects for a range of ages.

Both students and teachers are thoroughly vetted before being allowed to use the service. The platform also has a ratings system, and students book using an upfront online payment system, with the tutors paid once the lessons have been confirmed.

A Ugandan innovation, the Yaaka Digital Learning Network, also aims to bring education to those who can’t physically access learning institutions.

Developed by Africa Prize finalist Hindu Nabulumba and her team, Yaaka is designed like an interactive social network, where teachers and students can share academic knowledge and materials.

Students and teachers ranging from pre-primary school to university level share materials in the form of text, audio, audio-visual or video content. Online classes are held for those with internet-connected devices.

For those without internet access, an offline version has also been developed.

Addressing water challenges, finalist Kelvin Gacheru’s innovation is Mobi-Water, a smart solar-powered water monitoring system.

In Kenya, where 40% of urban and 60% of rural residents lack access to a safe and reliable water source, the water resource engineer designed the Mobi-Water system to enable water tank owners to monitor and control the water levels in their tanks from any location using their mobile phones.

Mobi-Water sends a text message alert to up to 10 mobile numbers when water levels drop below a certain point.Users can remotely open and close valves and pumps if they want to refill the tank or redirect the water.

Finally, South African rocket scientist Andre Nel’s invention tackles water and energy issues. The GreenTower Microgrid is a hybrid, solar microgrid solution that uses 90% less energy to heat water.

Only one-third of Africans have access to grid-connected electricity and heating water accounts for the majority of electricity costs in homes and offices.

A single unit of the GreenTower Microgrid packaged in insulated recycled shipping containers can service 15 homes, and reduce the electricity demand from a community by 65%, considerably easing the pressure on the national power grid.

“This year we had an even tougher job than ever in selecting the four finalists from 16 outstanding entrepreneurs, and once again the finalists cover a wide spectrum of exciting innovations, offering huge potential benefits to millions of Africans as well as the chance for the business founders to become successful entrepreneurs,” said Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng, the Africa Prize chair of judges.

“Two innovations focus on digitally-enabling education and skills development, in quite different ways. The other two are hardware inventions which address African water issues, one through solar heating of water, and the other through providing improved monitoring and access to water storage for consumers.  It will surely be an exciting and close-run Final in Nairobi next Tuesday”.

The four finalists were selected from a pool of 16 shortlisted candidates from across sub-Saharan Africa, who all received six months of training and mentorship.

The winner will be announced on May 23, 2017 in Nairobi after pitching live to the judging panel and assembled audience. The winner receives £25,000, and £10,000 is awarded to each of the runners up.

Previous winners of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation are Tanzanian Dr Askwar Hilonga, creator of the NanoFilter, and Cardiopad founder Arthur Zang from Cameroon.

The other 12 candidates on the 2016/2017 Africa Prize shortlist are:

  • Achiri Arnold Nji from Cameroon with Safe Travel, a mobile app that helps prevent public transport accidents
  • Alex Makalliwa from Kenya with an electric Tuk-Tuk off-grid charging network
  • Aline Okello from Mozambique with a rainwater harvesting app to improve access to rain harvesting equipment
  • Andre Nel from South Africa with Green Tower, a solar energy micro-grid boiler
  • Brian Turyabagye from Uganda with Mamaope, a biomedical jacket that diagnoses pneumonia
  • Edwin Inganji from Kenya with the Usalama app, which boosts the effectiveness of community policing and speeds up emergency services’ reaction times
  • Fredrick Ouko from Kenya with Riziki Source, an online platform that connects people with disabilities to jobs
  • Godwin Benson from Nigeria with Tuteria, a peer-to-peer platform that connects students to tutors
  • Hindu Nabulumba from Uganda with the Yaaka Network, which connects students, academics and trainers on a single social network
  • James van der Walt from South Africa with the Solar Turtle, a self-contained, off-grid power utility
  • Joel King’ori Kariuki from Kenya with a sisal decorticator that speeds up natural fibre production to help it compete with synthetic fibres
  • Kevin Gacheru from Kenya with the Mkononi Tank Monitoring System to reduce water wastage
  • Lawrence Ojok from Tanzania with the Green Rock Drill, an environmentally friendly drill for small scale mining
  • Peter Mbiria from Kenya with the E-Con Wheelchair, an all-terrain wheelchair that allows users to stand upright, climb stairs and self-navigate
  • Sesinam Dagadu from Ghana with CodeRed, a health management and disease surveillance app that improves emergency response times from ambulances and police
  • Wilfred Leslie Owen from South Africa with an automated solar cooker that tracks the sun and has built-in temperature and timing controls.

The judging panel includes Malcolm Brinded (chair of judging panel), Rebecca Enonchong (Founder and CEO, AppsTech), Dr John Lazar (Angel investor and technology start-up mentor), Dr Moses Musaazi (Senior Lecturer, Makerere University and MD of Technology for Tomorrow Limited, Uganda) and Dr Bola Olabisi (CEO, Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network).


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