Brian Turyabagye, a 24-year old engineer and entrepreneur from Uganda, has won a special Pitch@Palace Africa, generously hosted by HRH The Duke of York at St James’s Palace, which featured the contenders for the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize 2017.

Brian’s invention, Mama-Ope, is a biomedical smart jacket that helps doctors identify pneumonia faster and more accurately. “27,000 Ugandan children die annually from pneumonia, often because the disease is misdiagnosed,” says Brian. With Mama-Ope, we can reduce the margin for human error and help doctors make faster, more accurate diagnoses.”

Alex Makalliwa, 26, an aeronautical engineering lecturer from Kenya, came second with his design for a sustainable, electric Tuk-Tuk, and 27-year old Godwin Benson from Nigeria came third with his business Tuteria, a web-based platform to link students with expert tutors in their area.

Fifteen engineering entrepreneurs from sub-Saharan Africa presented their innovations and business plans on Monday 20 March, to an invited audience who picked their favourite, following the popular format of the Pitch@Palace series, which offers exciting start-ups an opportunity to demonstrate their business to a global audience of influencers who can help catapult them to the next level. Established by The Duke of York, in less than three years Pitch@Palace has helped over 247 businesses grow, with some now enjoying huge global success.

HRH The Duke of York, founder of Pitch@Palace, said:

"As Pitch@Palace expands around the world I am determined to encourage ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African entrepreneurs, many of them engineers from all disciplines, to make use of their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges."

The Africa Prize encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineering in helping to improve both quality of life and economic development. Everyone on the shortlist receives an intensive six-month period of training and mentoring, managed by the Academy.

The innovators shortlisted for 2017 have almost completed their mentorship and will compete again at the Africa Prize Final in Nairobi on 23 May, when judges will choose the winner of the £25,000 prize, along with three runners-up, who will each receive £10,000. 

The Africa Prize 2017 shortlist competing at Pitch@Palace were:

  • Aline Okello, 33, a hydrology PhD student from Mozambique who lives and works in South Africa and has a passion for water resources. “As a hydrologist, I see so many opportunities if knowledge on appropriate technologies for rainwater harvesting is simply shared.”

    The Innovation: The Rainwater Harvesting app allows users to calculate how much water they could harvest based on the type of roof they have, their location and available tank types in their area.
  • Alex Makalliwa, 26, an aeronautical engineering lecturer from Kenya, focused on making sustainable transport in Africa more accessible. “These electric Tuk-Tuks can significantly reduce the economic barrier to electric cars, and reduce the carbon footprint of some of the fastest growing economies in the world.”

    The Innovation: Tuk-Tuks are a popular means of transport in many African cities, and Makalliwa’s aim is to make them even more convenient by converting fleets to run on electric motors.
  • Andre Nel, 55, a former rocket scientist from South Africa who has shifted his attention to solving electricity supply and carbon emission problems. “My father inspired me to create the GreenTower when as a pensioner, he couldn’t afford a hot bath. I realised that reducing the cost of water heating could make life easier for many people.”

    The Innovation: GreenTower is a hybrid, solar microgrid solution that uses 90% less energy to heat water. It’s designed to be scalable, and a single containerised unit typically serves 15 homes.
  • Brian Turyabagye, 24, from Uganda, a telecommunications engineer and social entrepreneur. “27,000 Ugandan children die annually from pneumonia, often because the disease is misdiagnosed. With Mama- Ope, we want to reduce the margin for human error and help doctors make faster, more accurate diagnoses.”

    The Innovation: Mama-Ope is a biomedical smart jacket that helps doctors identify pneumonia faster and more accurately. It measures temperature and breathing rate, and compares it to a database of parameters.
  • Edwin Inganji, 22, an informatics student from Kenya, and one of the youngest shortlisted candidates in the Africa Prize. “I love programming, and I love using it to create IT solutions to problems that we face as Africans.”

    The Innovation: The free to use Usalama app boosts policing and emergency response times by allowing users to effortlessly alert police, emergency services, family members and other users to emergency situations.
  • Fredrick Ouko, 34, from Kenya, a social entrepreneur and a pioneer in creating public-private partnership initiatives that help people with disabilities. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to be able to help especially young people with disabilities to overcome the same challenges I’ve faced as a person with a disability.”

    The Innovation: Riziki Source is a web platform for employers to tap into the millions of skilled people living with disabilities in Africa, of which up to 80% are without work.
  • Godwin Benson, 27, a systems engineer from Nigeria, who has built a safe peer-to-peer platform that connects students to tutors. “I’m passionate about helping other people succeed, and as a tutor of nearly 10 years myself, I know the difference that a platform like Tuteria can make to someone’s education.”

    The Innovation: Tuteria helps students match subjects and budgets to a skilled tutor in their area. The web based platform already has 6,500 approved tutors and about 1,250 students.
  • Hindu Nabulumba, 25, a digital media specialist from Uganda. “Everyone is looking for more knowledge. The Yaaka Network combines social media with that hunger to give more people access to a better education.”

    The Innovation: The Yaaka Network, an online platform paired with a physical device, is a digital environment that allows teachers to tutor remotely, and helps its users benefit from each other’s experience and guidance.
  • James van der Walt, 37, a mechanical engineer from South Africa who created the Solar Turtle to help electrify rural schools. “As a software engineer, I realised that to change the world, you have to start where people need change the most. Within two years I was doing my engineering masters on the Solar Turtle.”

    The Innovation: The Solar Turtle is a mobile power station that provides instant electrification wherever it’s needed. Housed in a shipping container, the solar panels are folded out and charge batteries inside recycled bottles, which users plug into their home system.
  • Joel Kariuki, 26, a mechanical engineer from Kenya whose peeler for sisal plants aims to make natural fibres a viable competitor for synthetics. “This innovation is driven by the global demand in the sisal fibre market and widespread concern about the use of non-biodegradable, synthetic products.”

    The Innovation: The Sisal Decorticator is a mechanised peeler which makes it more profitable for natural sisal fibre to be processed, giving the industry a competitive boost in the global market.
  • Kelvin Gacheru, 26, a water resource engineer from Kenya with irrigation design, borehole and water treatment experience. “The Mkononi system allows farmers, families and businesses to use water more efficiently, which is essential in a water-scarce country like Kenya.”

    The Innovation: The Mkononi Tank Monitoring system is a solar-powered system that allows the millions of people who use water tanks to ensure that the water is not wasted. It monitors water levels, leaks, valves and pumps via a mobile phone app.
  • Lawrence Ojok, 40, from Tanzania, a mechanical and production engineer and a community problem solver, constantly looking for new solutions to ease long hours his peers work. “There is always an appropriate solution to every challenge a local community faces. You just have to find it.”

    The Innovation: The Green Rock Drill is a solar-powered alternative to modern fossil-fuel rock drills. It’s easier on the environment and is designed for small-scale, artisanal mining in Tanzania.
  • Peter Mbiria, 26, a mechanical designer and engineering student from Kenya who designed the E-Con wheelchair for a friend. “I watched a friend have to use three or four different wheelchairs just to get by. Our innovation incorporates all the functionality of different wheelchairs into a single solution.”

    The Innovation: The E-Con wheelchair is a culmination of many solutions. It can go off-road, climb stairs, allow the user to stand upright and automatically navigate familiar terrain, all while keeping its passenger perfectly level.
  • Sesinam Dagadu, 31, from Ghana, who uses his engineering knowledge and interest in human behaviour to develop unique solutions that empower users. “We were asked to help create a system that could track Ebola cases during the 2015 outbreak, and from this, CodeRed was born.”

    The Innovation: CodeRed is a logistics app which significantly reduces emergency response time through a custom-made mapping system to help ambulances navigate dense urban areas.
  • Solomon Smit, 37, from South Africa, who designed a next-generation multipurpose solar generator. “The Water&Solar100 cooks, purifies contaminated water, has medical applications and generates electrical power. It breaks down all the barriers to owning solar cookers.”

    The Innovation: The Water&Solar100, a sun-tracking water purifier and solar-cooker, is lightweight, portable, tracks the sun automatically, has temperature and timing controls and generates electricity to charge batteries.

Notes for editors

  1. The Prince Andrew Charitable Trust set up Pitch@Palace C.I.C. to support His Royal Highness’s work with Entrepreneurs and to guide, help and connect them and early-stage businesses with potential supporters, including CEOs, influencers, angels, mentors and business partners.
  2. The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers, from all disciplines, to develop local solutions to challenges in their communities. The Prize selects a shortlist of innovators from across the continent and provides training and mentoring to help turn engineers with incredible ideas into successful entrepreneurs.

    Launched in 2014, the Prize aims to stimulate, celebrate and reward engineers who have developed innovations that will benefit Africans. It is generously supported by the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund, the Global Challenges Research Fund, Consolidated Contractors Company, ConocoPhillips and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
  3. 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:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession

For more information, please contact:

Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering

T: 020 7766 0636
E: Jane Sutton