Technology to produce clear banana juice; an environmentally friendly precise fertiliser applicator; systems to improve hygiene in urban sanitation; and a service that allows mobile phone users to switch between multiple mobile networks, are among the twelve African innovations selected by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering to receive training and mentoring to help get their businesses off the ground.

The twelve entrepreneurs, affiliated with African universities and research institutions, have been selected as part of the first year of the Academy’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The Prize is already Africa’s biggest prize devoted to engineering innovation, covering all disciplines from mechanical, civil and computing to biomedical, oil and gas, mining and electronic engineering.

Other selected innovations include a mobile payment application that allows merchants and customers to make and receive card payments through their phones; a low-cost sustainable water filter system to provide clean and safe drinking water; and a security alarm system that precisely detects tampering and breaches of perimeter fences.

Following six months of training and mentoring support from top business development and engineering experts, an overall winner will be selected to receive £25,000 along with two runners-up who will be awarded £10,000 each.

“Engineering is crucial to social and economic development across Africa and internationally. During the next six months these successful entrants of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation will receive training and money-can’t-buy mentoring from engineering and business leaders,” said Chair of the Africa Prize judging panel Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng. “The training will primarily be focused on scaling up and commercialising their engineering proposals.”

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation was established to highlight the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development, and celebrate innovation. The Prize is generously supported by the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund, Consolidated Contractors Company, ConocoPhilips and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

The twelve selected entrepreneurs are:

Multi-network mobile phone service

Samuel Njugana Wangui, University of Nairobi

In Kenya, most mobile service users have at least two SIM cards to ensure signal strength across different carriers. Samuel Njugana Wangui has developed Chura, a web-based 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.

Removable window burglar bar

Captain Abubakar Surajo, Nigerian Army Transformation & Innovation Centre

Captain Abubakar Surajo has developed a removable burglar-bar system that enables a quick emergency exit from a building is a new innovation that makes burglar bars more versatile. A locking mechanism incorporated into the burglar-bar system can only be unlocked from the inside, and until unlocked the bars are impenetrable. This means that users can feel safe and secure within their home or business, without the burglar bars preventing their escape in an emergency. 

Precise fence security alarm system

Ernst Pretorius, University of Pretoria

Mounted to the wiring posts of a fence, the Draadsitter (Afrikaans for ‘fence sitter’) detects tampering on fences of up to 800 metres. Using sensors, the device warns owners of the location and nature of tampering on their fence, allowing them to react before security is breached. The sensor can also detect fires.

Mobile phone application to teach children local language

Ian Mutamiri, University of Zimbabwe

Ian Mutamiri has developed an Android application that teaches children how to read Shona by improving their syllable-to-sound association. The app is specially geared for children with reading disabilities. Known as NatiV, the app focuses on teaching children languages using native speakers whose accent and intonation they recognise. The platform could also be used to teach other languages.

Low cost, biodegradable degreaser for mining, agriculture and manufacturing

Chinenye Justin Nwaogwugwu, Federal University of Technology, Owerri

Chinenye Justin Nwaogwugwu has developed an affordable, heavy-duty multi-purpose multi-surface degreaser and cleaner that removes organic and inorganic dirt from washable surfaces. Produced using biodegradable raw materials, it is environmentally-friendly, non-corrosive and non-acidic, and cleans an array of materials without harming them, making it particularly suited to manufacturing, mining, and agricultural applications among others.

Environmentally friendly precise fertiliser applicator

Musenga Silwawa, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute

Small-scale farmers in Zambia typically apply commercial fertiliser to their crops by hand, which not only results in inconsistent application but is labour intensive and time consuming. Musenga Silwawa has developed an efficient and consistent fertiliser applicator that eliminates fertiliser wastage and allows farmers to apply fertiliser to targeted spots with one simple action.

Latrine systems to improve urban sanitation

Samuel Malinga, Makerere University

People living in the Ugandan city of Kampala rely heavily on traditional pit latrines in the absence of flushing toilets. Latrines are easily flooded and often not emptied regularly enough, which increases the risk of diarrheal disease. Samuel Malinga has developed a number of new innovations to improve these sanitation systems, including a low cost pit latrine emptying device, alongside developing new transport models and improved opportunities to treat and re-use faecal sludge as a biofuel.

Integrated ‘crushing’ machine for sustainable gold mining

Rujeko Masike, Harare Institute of Technology

The small to medium mining sector in Zimbabwe has a need for portable ore crushing machines. This innovation scales down jaw and roller machines and incorporates local materials to make affordable, portable and appropriate crushing machines for local miners.

Mobile payment application

Tolulupe Ajuwape, University of Ibadan

FlexiPay allows merchants and customers to make and receive card payments for products and services using their phones and tablets. Mobile money applications have had great success across Africa, and the application incorporates innovative functionality to take it a step further. This includes receipts issued by SMS or email, building customer databases for marketing, turning the host device into a Point of Sale terminal, and storage of transaction records via barcodes in a safe cloud-based platform. The business-orientated solution reduces the costs of banking, reduces the risks of cash related crimes, and gets small businesses to record their transactions so they become part of the formal tax-paying sector. The application also has a management tool for business owners to track their inventory and keep basic accounting of expenditure.

Low-cost sustainable water filter system

Dr Askwar Hilonga, The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science & Technology

Dr Askwar Hilonga has developed a new water filter system, integrating nanotechnology with sand-based water filtration to provide clean, safe drinking water. The process is affordable and sustainable and highly relevant in rural settings across Africa where access to clean water remains a huge challenge.

Mechanical system to prepare clear banana juice

Dr Oscar Kibazohi, University of Dar es Salaam & Makerere University

Clear banana juice is difficult to produce because pulping ripe bananas produces a highly viscous puree. Dr Oscar Kibazohi has developed a mechanical system that effectively mashes bananas to create clear banana juice without the addition of enzymes or extraction aids. The system is mirrored on the traditional process of kneading a mixture of ripe banana and grass or fibres until the juice oozes out from the pulp. The technology allows for juice-producing banana varieties, which fetch low prices and are being phased out, to be transformed into a more valuable product.

Real-time quality control for fluids manufacturing

Dr Reinhardt Kotzé, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)

Flow-Viz is an industrial system from South Africa (co-developed between CPUT and SP – Technical Research Institute of Sweden) which improves process and quality control in a fluids industrial operation. Its aim is to replace time-consuming off-line measurements in the quality control laboratory with continuous real-time process monitoring that takes place directly in the production line. Currently, operators take fluid samples and conduct time-consuming lab tests to monitor product quality. Dr Reinhardt Kotzé’s innovation consists of a sensor unit, an operator’s panel and software with which to view the analysis of viscosity and flow-profiles. Pilot tests have been conducted on products such as cement grout, food products such as yoghurt, soup, beer and ketchup, bio-chemicals like ethanol as well as detergents, explosive emulsions and paper pulp.

The Royal Academy of Engineering is the UK’s national academy for engineering. It brings together successful engineers to advance and promote excellence in engineering. Encouraging and facilitating engineering innovation is a major focus of the Academy’s work, both domestically in the UK and in sub-Saharan Africa. A key component of its focus is on public understanding of engineering and increasing awareness of how engineering impacts lives


Notes for Editors

  1. For more information on the prize visit the Africa Prize for Engineering's page
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society. Further information is available on the Academy's website.
  3. Judges of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

    Chair of Judges: Mr Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng
    Malcolm is Chair of the Shell Foundation, and a Non-Executive Director of BHPBilliton, CH2MHill and Network Rail.

  • Dr Liesbeth Botha, former Executive Director, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa
  • Stephen Dawson, Chairman, Jacana Partners
  • Professor Calestous Juma HonFREng, Visiting Professor, MIT and Professor, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Dr Moses Musaazi from Makerere University and Managing Director of Technology for Tomorrow Limited, Uganda
  • Dr Bola Olabisi, CEO, Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network

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