The UK Royal Academy of Engineering has shortlisted a range of products for the 2022 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.
These include an off-grid neonatal crib for jaundiced babies, a portable vaccine fridge, a hydrogen fuel-cell generator that runs on gas and a natural, plant-based fibre that can be used to clean up oil spills.
The Africa Prize awards crucial commercialisation support to African innovators who are tackling local challenges with scalable engineering solutions.
“This year’s shortlist demonstrates how technology can be used to drive development from a grassroots level, and we look forward to supporting these innovators in expanding their impact across Africa,” says Africa Prize judge Dr John Lazar.
This year’s shortlist features several medical innovations, including a smart, off-grid neonatal crib to treat jaundiced newborns; a device that maps a patient’s veins onto their skin to aid nurses inserting drips or drawing blood; a system that helps nurses monitor patients and improve their workflow; and a mobile, solar-powered fridge that keeps vaccines cold in the field.
Other companies have developed commercial packaging from a variety of agricultural waste, transformed invasive plants into an absorptive fibre used to clean oil spills on land and water and created an aquaponics starter kit to grow their own fish and crops at home, complete with a remote monitoring system and online marketplace, the academy says.
Also on the shortlist are entrepreneurs working on smokeless cooking stoves made from scrap metal, a cold-storage system for off-grid farming communities, a fuel-cell-based hydrogen generator that runs on liquefied petroleum gas, and a minigrid monitoring system to help utilities and minigrid operators manage solar installations.
Further innovations provide communities with an online platform to exchange used goods like household appliances, clothing and more, using a virtual currency. An outdoor and off-grid communal workspace gives students access to WiFi and power, and a prepaid bank card that requires no bank account and can be used worldwide giving the unbanked access to online purchases and cash from mobile money.
“Finally, an online platform helps small business owners hire and manage freelancers across a range of disciplines, outsourcing skills that are not part of their core business,” the Royal Academy of Engineering says.
Further, the 2022 shortlist includes the Africa Prize’s first Togolese and Congolese innovators, with nine countries represented, including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. For the first time, half of the 16-strong shortlist are women, including the first woman from Ethiopia to be shortlisted for the prize, the academy says.
This year’s shortlisted innovators are being provided a package of support, from November 2021 to June 2022 to help them accelerate their businesses. The benefits of selection include comprehensive and tailored business training, bespoke mentoring, media and communications training.
The programme also provides funding and access to the Academy’s global network of high-profile, experienced engineers and business experts, as well as access to the alumni network when the programme concludes, the Royal Academy of Engineering says.
The alumni network of more than 102 social entrepreneurs across Africa is projected to impact more than three-million lives in the next five years. They have already created more than 1 500 jobs and raised more than $14-million in grants and equity, the academy adds.
The programme will be offered as a digital experience, with intensive support provided through one-on-one and group sessions. Where possible, sessions may also be held in-person.
“Following this period of support, four finalists will be selected and invited to pitch their improved innovation and business plan to the judges and a live audience. A winner will be selected to receive £25 000 and three runners-up will receive £10 000 each. An additional One-to-Watch award of £5 000 will go to the most promising innovator, as selected by the live audience,” the academy says.