Royal Academy of Engineering recognises the ambitious African innovators transforming Africa

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, today announced its 2020 shortlist, recognising ambitious African innovators developing scalable engineering solutions to local challenges.

This year’s shortlist includes the creators of a smart library on wheels, facial recognition software to prevent financial fraud, a low-cost digital microscope to speed up cervical cancer diagnosis, bamboo bicycles made from recycled parts, and two innovations made from invasive water hyacinth plants: an animal feed and a cooking fuel.

The 2020 shortlist represents six countries, including, for the first time, Malawi. Six of the 16-strong shortlist are female innovators.

Launched in 2014 by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the annual Africa Prize awards crucial commercialisation support to innovators who are transforming their local communities across Africa. The Prize has a track record of identifying engineering entrepreneurs with significant potential, endorsing those who, with the support of the Prize, have gone on to achieve greater commercial success and social impact.

Interactive map of the Africa Prize

Alumni of the Prize are projected to impact over three million lives in the next five years, and have already created over 1,500 jobs and raised more than $14 million in grants and equity.

A unique package of support will be provided to the shortlisted entrepreneurs over the next eight months to help them accelerate their businesses. The benefits of selection include comprehensive and tailored business training, bespoke mentoring, funding and access to the Academy’s network of high profile, experienced engineers and business experts in the UK and across Africa.

Following this period of support, four finalists are selected and invited to pitch their improved innovation and business plan to the judges and a live audience. A winner is selected to receive £25,000, and three runners up receive £10,000.

“For six years we have been humbled to work with African entrepreneurs who use engineering to shift how we think about problems, developing disruptive technologies for everything from energy and agriculture to housing, transport and finance,” said Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize judge and Cameroonian entrepreneur. “These are the local entrepreneurs who are transforming Africa, and we are once again honoured to guide and learn from the brightest minds chosen for the Africa Prize shortlist.”

The Prize supports innovators who are developing life-changing technologies that may otherwise have gone unrecognised and under-resourced. Unlike conventional grants or accelerators, the Prize does not dictate the types of innovation that are eligible. Instead, it provides tailored support to entrepreneurs seeking to address challenges identified in their own communities. The Prize alumni include technologies tackling issues as diverse as access to clean water, safe transport, personal finance and the healthcare system.

Meredith Ettridge, Head of Sustainable Development at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Nurturing thriving commercial companies has a significant role in enabling sustainable development, supporting entrepreneurs to deliver greater job creation, prospects and prosperity in their communities and contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is these benefits, on a local, national and continent-wide level in Africa, that the Prize aims to accelerate.”

In addition to the Africa Prize, the Academy also runs other innovation programmes in Africa. This include the Africa Innovation Fellowship in partnership with WomEng, which increases female participation in engineering innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent, and the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF) programme, which supports innovators in 16 countries including Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.

The Academy is also building capacity across the entire innovation ecosystem in Africa through initiatives such as the GCRF Africa Catalyst and Higher Education Partnerships programmes, which through working with professional bodies and universities, help to raise standards, improve skills, create jobs and support the development of new solutions.

The shortlisted technologies and candidates are:

Aquaprotein, Jack Oyugi from Kenya – an affordable protein supplement for animal feed, made from invasive water hyacinth
BACE API, Charlette N’Guessan from Ghana – a system that uses live facial recognition technology to verify identities and prevent financial and online identity fraud
CATHEL, Catherine Tasankha Chaima from Malawi – an affordable antibacterial soap made from agricultural waste and other plant-based extracts
CIST Ethanol Fuel, Richard Arwa from Kenya – a clean cooking ethanol made from invasive water hyacinth
DryMac, Adrian Padt from South Africa – a containerised drying system that uses burning biomass instead of electricity to dry and preserve crops
Eco Water Purifier, Timothy Kayondo from Uganda – a digital system that turns bones, cassava peelings, coconut shells and other waste into an activated carbon water filter
EcoRide, Bernice Dapaah from Ghana – bamboo bicycles made by Ghanaian women and youth from sustainable materials and recycled parts
Farmz2U, Aisha Raheem from Nigeria – tech solutions that help farmers and families prevent food waste and enhance nutrition
Garbage In Value Out (GIVO), Victor Boyle-Komolafe from Nigeria – automates and digitises the collection, processing and sale of recyclable materials
GrainMate, Isaac Sesi from Ghana – a simple handheld meter to accurately measure the moisture content of grains to prevent rotting, insect infestation and quality reduction
Lab and Library on Wheels, Josephine Godwyll from Ghana – a mobile, solar-hybrid cart with gadgets and e-learning resources to encourage reading and teach STEAM subjects in under-resourced schools
PapsAI, Dr William Wasswa from Uganda – a low-cost digital microscope slide scanner and platform that diagnoses and manages cervical cancer in resource-constrained areas
Remot, David Tusubira from Uganda – a digital platform that connects to off-grid solar systems to allow users to manage and pay for them remotely
Safi Organics, Samuel Rigu from Kenya – a novel chemical process that turns crop waste into a range of affordable fertilisers
Solar Jiko, Justine Abuga from Kenya – a heat storage system that allows rural schools to cook food quickly and easily without firewood
Tree_Sea.mals Mini-Grid, Tracy Kimathi from Kenya – a solar system that powers communal refrigeration storage spaces in rural Kenya