Engineering Innovation

The Royal Academy of Engineering will host the final of the 10th Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, the continent’s largest engineering prize, on 13 June 2024 in Nairobi, Kenya. From an initial shortlist of 16 innovators creating sustainable, scalable engineering solutions on the continent, four finalists have been selected to present their innovations to the judges in front of both a live and online audience.

Registration for this event is now open. 

From eco-friendly roofing and waste collection to AI-powered healthcare and farming 

In 2024, the four finalists have developed solutions including an environmentally-friendly roofing material made from recycled plastic, a smart healthcare platform providing direct access to vital healthcare information via WhatsApp, a location-based mobile app connecting customers to independent agents for on-demand rubbish collection and disposal, and a solar-powered tool using AI and machine learning-enabled cameras to detect and identify agricultural pests and diseases. 

These innovations directly address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities and climate action. 

Prizes 

This year’s winner will receive a prize of £50,000, with the other three finalists receiving £15,000 each. The prize is double the amount of previous years in recognition of the Africa Prize’s ten-year anniversary. The other shortlisted innovators will also be given one minute each to present their innovations, and an audience poll will select one of them to receive an award of £5,000. This prize, the ‘One to Watch’, is awarded in honour of an alumnus of the Africa Prize who passed away, Ghanaian Martin Bruce, co-founder of Young at Heart. It is awarded to a member of the shortlist who the audience identifies as one to watch in the future. The awards form part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s investment of over £1 million to African innovators through grants, prizes and accelerator programme places during the 10th anniversary year of the Africa Prize. 

The 2024 Africa Prize finalists were selected from a shortlist of innovators who are applying engineering to solve problems faced by their communities. The finalist selection took place following an eight-month training and mentoring programme, during which experts provided tailored, one-on-one support designed to accelerate and strengthen the businesses of each member of the shortlist. Training covered business plans, scaling, recruitment, IP protection, sector-specific engineering mentoring, communication, financing and commercialisation. 

Finalists: 

Early Crop Pest and Disease Detection Device,

Esther Kimani, Kenya: 

A solar-powered tool utilising AI and machine learning-enabled cameras to swiftly detect and identify agricultural pests and diseases, reducing crop losses for smallholder farmers by up to 30% while increasing yields by as much as 40%. 

Kimani’s innovation not only provides real-time alerts within five seconds of an infestation, offering tailored intervention suggestions, but also alerts government agricultural officers to the presence of diseases or pests, contributing to broader agricultural management efforts. 

This affordable alternative to traditional detection methods leases for just $3 per month, significantly cheaper than hiring drones or agricultural inspectors, and also provides valuable data for policymakers through an agricultural live-tracking data dashboard. 

Engineering Innovation

FamerLifeline CEO and Founder, Ester Wanjiri.

Eco Tiles, Kevin Maina, Kenya:  

An environmentally friendly roofing material made from recycled plastic. Stronger and lighter than clay or concrete tiles, the innovation is a dual solution to plastic pollution and high building costs. 

Kevin and his team, work with 500 informal waste collectors who provide plastics, including high-density polymers and lighter polyethene. 

The innovative manufacturing process involves a custom-made extrusion machine that blends different plastics at varying temperatures, eliminating the need for energy-intensive processes like kiln-burning and reducing carbon emissions. The tiles are enhanced with UV stabilisation chemicals and construction sand to improve durability and sturdiness.  

With a production rate of 1,500 tiles daily, each tile is pressed in a minute. Half a million Eco Tiles have been used to date in the construction of 348 houses. 

La Ruche Health, Rory Assandey,

Côte d’Ivoire: 

La Ruche Health connects communities to vital health information, advice, and services through “Kiko”, an AI chatbot tool available on WhatsApp and mobile apps, and a digital backend solution to streamline documentation, billing, and data sharing for practitioners. 

Recognising the fragmented healthcare network in Côte d’Ivoire, La Ruche Health addresses accessibility barriers for the 43% of the population with limited literacy skills. 

Kiko serves as the patient’s initial point of contact, offering personalised screening and facilitating appointments with qualified healthcare professionals. 

By May 2024, the AI has facilitated over 150,000 user interactions and 189 in-home and teleconsultation appointments, processing over $18,000 in medical billings, illustrating its effectiveness and scalability. 

Engineering Innovation

La Ruche Health co-founders, Rory Assandey and Benjamin Sasu.

Yo-Waste, Martin Tumusiime, Uganda: 

Addressing Uganda’s mounting waste crisis, Yo-Waste is a location-based mobile application that connects homes and businesses to independent agents for efficient on-demand rubbish collection and disposal. 

The technology uses routing and scheduling algorithms to optimise waste collection routes, which reduces costs and improves efficiency. It has GPS location technology to pinpoint collection points, which overcomes the challenge of people not having official addresses in informal residential areas. 

Yo-Waste currently serves over 1,500 customers including homes, businesses, and waste collection agents, with a goal to reach 20,000 users by 2026. 

With only 40% of waste disposed of properly in Africa, Yo-Waste’s innovative approach tackles environmental pollution and health hazards caused by open dumpsites. 

Engineering Innovation

Yo-Waste founder, Martin Tumusiime.

Awards 

Local supporters, industry peers, engineering and entrepreneurial enthusiasts, innovation hubs, investors, as well as media, are encouraged to register to attend the Africa Prize final free of charge in person or online here. An online exhibition showcasing the Africa Prize 2024 shortlist can be viewed here. The final will be held at the Mövenpick Hotel & Residences, Nairobi, where approximately 100 Africa Prize alumni from 20 countries will also attend to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Africa Prize.  

This year, the judges are:  

  • Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng (Chair of judges), Past President of the Energy Institute, former Chair of EngineeringUK 
  • Dr Ibilola Amao, Founder and Principal Consultant, Lonadek Global Services 
  • Rebecca Enonchong FREng, Founder and CEO, AppsTech 
  • Dr John Lazar CBE FREng, Co-founder and General Partner, Enza Capital, and Raspberry Pi Foundation
  • Sewu-Steve Tawia, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Jaza Rift Ventures  
  • Guest Judge: Sheena Raikundalia, Chief Growth Officer, Kuza One (Kuza Biashara)  

Africa Prize Judge Dr John Lazar CBE FREng said, “The Royal Academy of Engineering has supported almost 150 entrepreneurs across 23 African countries. Our active alumni network offers lifelong support to our growing community, which has created more than 28,000 jobs, with more than ten million people having benefitted from shortlisted innovations over the past decade. This is why in 2024, the Academy is investing more than £1 million in our alumni through grants, prizes and accelerator programme awards to facilitate longer-term success of their innovations.” 

“2024 has been one of our most difficult shortlists to decide yet. We had a record number of applications which we shortlisted down to sixteen, and now we’ve narrowed it down to our four exceptional finalists. Esther Kimani, Kevin Maina, Rory Assandey and Martin Tumusiime are examples of engineering excellence in Africa, and the Royal Academy of Engineering is proud to have played a part in their development journeys. These are individuals who we know will inspire the next generation of changemakers on the continent. Choosing a winner is not going to be easy.” 

The Africa Prize runs annually and is designed to bring together individual innovators changing their communities, to form a network that can transform a continent. The 2025 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation will be open for entries on 13 June 2024. Individuals and small teams living and working in sub-Saharan Africa with a scalable engineering innovation to solve a local challenge are invited to enter.

Visit the ‘How to Apply’ guide on the Africa Prize website. 

 

Four innovators from Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda have been selected from a shortlist of 16 to compete for the £50,000 Africa Prize in its tenth anniversary year. Their innovations address recycling in construction, AI tools for healthcare and farming, and reengineered waste collection. 

 

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to:

www.raeng.org.uk/africaprize for the information in this editorial. 

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