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Royal Academy of Engineering awards South African entrepreneur top prize

Neo Hutiri

Neo Hutiri

2nd February 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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UK charity the Royal Academy of Engineering has celebrated its tenth anniversary of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, with a medal awarded by UK Princess Royal Anne Mountbatten-Windsor, who is the Academy’s Royal Fellow, at a ceremony that celebrated some of the most successful innovators and businesses from the past ten years.

The medal is one of 35 anniversary grants, prizes and accelerator programme awards, together worth more than £1-million, being invested in African innovators solving key development challenges on the continent.

Outstanding alumnus of the Africa Prize, Neo Hutiri from South Africa, was awarded an anniversary medal and £50 000 to further support his business Technovera. His product, Pelebox Smart Lockers, is designed to improve access to chronic disease medication.

The two runners-up were Aisha Raheem, with Farmz2u from Nigeria and Kenya, a business that increases efficiency for market players in the food system through seamless operational systems, and Samuel Njiguna with Chura from Kenya, with a Web-based, multinetwork system that allows users to move airtime between their different SIM cards regardless of carrier, buy airtime from service providers that can be used on any network, send airtime to family members or employees or exchange airtime for cash. Both runners-up received £15 000 to further develop their innovations.

In its history, the award has supported almost 150 entrepreneurs across 23 African countries, generating more than 28 000 jobs and benefitting more than ten-million people through the innovative products and services developed.

The Africa Prize for Engineering is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation and supporting entrepreneurs to maximise their impact.

The remaining tenth-anniversary funding will be awarded through grants and activities to boost the growth and sustainability of Africa-founded businesses. These initiatives include legal support, digital skills enhancement and global networking opportunities.

Throughout its first decade, the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has supported African entrepreneurs with a rigorous business training programme, lifelong support through its vibrant alumni network, as well as engineering mentoring, communications support, and pitching opportunities.

The alumni are working to tackle many of Africa’s most pressing development challenges, including access to power, food and water security, adapting to climate change and improving public infrastructure.

Since 2014, the alumni have collectively raised more than $39-million in finance and have introduced more than 470 products and services to the market in more than 40 countries across five continents.

"The prize was instrumental in accelerating Technovera-Pelebox Smart Lockers over the past five years. It has provided a community that has in the past supported and continues to support and inspire as we move forward. Thanks to this award, we aim to scale up the work that we’ve done to reach more communities,” Hutiri says.

"The impressive Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation entrepreneurs have created solutions that are actively shaping a sustainable and inclusive future for more than 10-million people on the continent. The Africa Prize started a decade ago to actively enhance engineering capacity within Africa. In this time, the continent's engineering ecosystem has continued to grow and thrive and we're proud to have supported its vibrant landscape of innovation and collaboration,” Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation judge Rebecca Enonchong adds.

Applications for the next cohort of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation will open in spring.

In addition to Raheem and Hutiri, the other shortlisted innovators for this year’s award were:

*Kitovu Technology Company, Nwachinemere Emeka, Nigeria: an online platform that helps rural and remote smallholder farmers make data-driven decisions to reduce costs, increase yields and maximise sales.

*Vertical and Micro Gardening-VMG, Paul Matovu, Uganda: VMG’s Vertical Farms uses space to both grow a variety of plants and compost biodegradable household waste, making sustainable farming accessible in urban environments and contributing to food security and community empowerment.

*Majik Water Technologies, Beth Wanjiku Koigi, Kenya: Majik Water uses solar power to harvest moisture from the air and turn it into affordable, clean drinking water for off-grid communities.

*Silmak-Genesis Care, Catherine Wanjoya, Kenya: Genesis Care is a system enabled by the Internet of Things to dispense and then dispose of feminine hygiene products, giving women and girls better access to affordable menstrual products.

*Kamata Online Protection Services, Edmand Aijuka, Uganda: Kamata, meaning ‘to seize’, is a prevention system that alerts regional utility centres when power is being tampered with or manipulated.

*Tuteria Education, Godwin Benson, Nigeria: Tuteria provides access to affordable, personalised tutoring, especially for students with academic challenges or special learning needs.

*Science Set, Ofori Charles Antipem, Ghana: The Science Set is a highly customisable portable toolbox that contains materials needed for every basic science experiment across different science curricula in Africa.

*BleagLee, Juveline Ngum Ngwa, Cameroon: BleagLee uses an artificial intelligence-based platform to swiftly identify open waste burning, and then works with indigenous waste collectors to collect waste for processing into biofuels, thus creating sustainable employment for women, men and young people.

*Auto-Truck EA, Kenneth Guantai, Kenya: Auto-truck is an e-mobility company that specialises in local manufacturing, retrofitting and assembly of electric two- and three-wheelers commonly used in Kenya for last-mile connectivity.

*Chura, Samuel Njuguna, Kenya: Chura is a Web-based, multinetwork system that allows users to move airtime between their different SIMs regardless of carrier, buy airtime from service providers that can be used on any network, send airtime to family members or employees, or exchange airtime for cash.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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