For the first time since its inception in 2015, a South African electrical engineer has won the Royal Academy of Engineers’ 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.
Thirty-one-year-old Neo Hutiri and his team won R463 000, or about £25 000, for developing Pelebox – a smart locker system designed to dispense medicine to patients with chronic conditions.
Pelebox is a simple wall of lockers, controlled by a digital system and used at public healthcare facilities in South Africa, cutting down on long queues and easing pressure on the healthcare system.
Healthcare workers stock the lockers with prescription refills, log the medicine on the system and secure each locker. Pelebox then sends patients a one-time PIN code to access a designated locker.
Additionally, Pelebox gives patients access to their medicine within 36 seconds, compared with the average three hours it takes in other healthcare facilities. This is especially handy in South Africa, considering that it has the world’s biggest antiretroviral therapy programme, with more than 4.7-million patients collecting monthly treatments from public clinics.
The Africa Prize provides a unique package of support, including funding, comprehensive business training, bespoke mentoring and access to the Royal Academy of Engineers’ network of engineers and experts.
Sixteen shortlisted Africa Prize entrants, from six countries in sub-Saharan Africa, received eight months of training and mentoring during which they learned to develop business plans and market their innovations. The group received coaching on communicating effectively, focusing on customers and approaching investors with confidence.
The three runner-up entrants each won £10 000. These are Kaoshi, a Nigerian mobile app that connects money senders across the globe; Smart Havens Africa, from Uganda, which builds sustainable smart homes using affordable technologies; and Sign-IO, from Kenya, a mobile app with smart gloves that track and translate sign language movements into speech and text in real time.
The deadline for entering the sixth Africa Prize competition is July 22.