Engineering innovations to manage heart disease, boost off-grid power, support parents and stop electricity theft have been selected as finalists in the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

The finalists from Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda were chosen for their ability to apply engineering to solve problems for people across the continent.

In Cameroon, where there are roughly 50 cardiologists for 22 million citizens, Arthur Zang combined medical diagnostics with customised software and hardware to change the way rural Africans access heart doctors.

The Cardio-Pad earned Zang a place in the finals for its ability to conduct cardiovascular diagnostics from anywhere in the world. A Cardio-Pad tablet, much like an iPad, is designed to be connected to a heart patient for tests conducted by ordinary doctors or nurses in rural areas.

The results are sent to a cardiologist via a cellular network, and a diagnosis returned within 20 minutes. An estimated 17 million people die a year of cardiovascular disease, placing a crippling burden on developing countries.

The Totohealth innovation team, led by Felix Kimaru, is transforming family health in Kenya with more than 21,000 parents already signed up. Young mothers subscribe to Totohealth via a network of healthcare workers, clinics and non-government organisations.

The web-based system keeps record of their pregnancy and childbirth, and parents then receive a bi-weekly text message which guides them at each stage of their child’s development.

Irregularities can be quickly identified by parents, even in areas with low awareness of maternal and child health, and where healthcare facilities are out of reach. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest risk of death in the first month of a child’s life, and the highest death rate among newborn children. Kimaru and his team believe that by improving access to medical information, Totohealth can help African parents to make more informed decisions.

The South African finalist is a team led by Johannesburg accountant Matt Wainwright. It is revolutionising the way energy is distributed and sold in Africa. Standard Microgrid’s first pilot is currently running on a rural test site in Mugurameno, Zambia.

Built into a shipping container for easy transport to remote areas, the system draws energy from solar panels and takes an entire utility solution to rural users, typically in a small village.

Instead of selling energy by kilowatt hours, Standard Microgrid uses a mathematical model to sell energy according to its use. There are different rates for lighting at night or to charge a phone during the day. It means that medicines can be kept safely chilled in rural areas, and businesses can run mobile connections to the internet. The innovation enables African villages, years from being connected to the national grid, to have reliable power within just a few weeks.

In Uganda, finalist Eddie Aijuka has developed Kamata, a device to solve a massive problem of electricity theft in Africa.

Kamata will be piloted from June this year. The device is mounted on energy supply points outside a house and detects any tampering or other irregular activity. It then alerts a control centre. Kamata allows electricity supply companies to remotely cut power off at properties where tampering is detected.

High standards make for tougher selection

“The four finalists represent the cream of African engineering innovation,” said Africa Prize judge Moses Musaazi.

The winner will be selected for the business potential of the innovation and its impact on people. “We are looking for an innovation with potential for high impact on the lives of people in sub-Saharan Africa,” Musaazi said.

The finalists are now preparing for an exhibition of their innovations in London, and the final awards in Dar es Salaam on 26 May 2016. The overall winner will receive £25,000, with £10,000 awarded to each of the runners up.

The next Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is now open for applicants from sub-Saharan Africa who have developed innovations that can provide scalable solutions to local challenges. Applications close at midnight on 27 June 2016, and shortlisted applicants will receive a six-month package of tailored support to help them achieve commercial success for their business.

“All that Kamata is now, I owe to the Royal Academy of Engineering,” said Eddie Aijuka. “It’s more than just a Prize – the training shifted my focus and guided me until my business became what it is today.”

Prospective applicants can go to: www.raeng.org.uk/AfricaPrize

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation was established by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK to celebrate innovation and highlight the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development. It is generously supported by the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund, Consolidated Contractors Company, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK), ConocoPhillips and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

The other eight entrepreneurs on the Africa Prize shortlist, who each received six months of training and mentoring to progress their businesses, are:

 

Mechanical cassava harvester

Professor Emmanuel Bobobee, Ghana 

Cassava is a food crop that grows underground across sub-Saharan Africa. It is eaten by more than 800 million people globally, and also used as a biofuel. The labour intensive harvesting of cassava is the biggest constraint to its commercial production.

The mechanical cassava harvester is an affordable tractor-mounted implement which turns up the soil to expose the root vegetable without damaging it.

It takes five to ten minutes to harvest one cassava plant manually, depending on the softness of the soil. The mechanical harvester can uproot one plant every second.

 

UjuziKilimo

Brian Bosire and team, Kenya 

To help farmers understand and quantify soil qualities, UjuziKilimo is an analytical system that measures soil characteristics. The information is collected by an electronic sensor inserted into the ground, which sends it to a central database for analysis. Farmers receive a text message with a guide on the soil, specific crop breeds, pest control, current market values, tools required and where to find them. UjuziKilimo has a central database which collects agricultural information from research institutions, universities, and financial markets.

 

FasoPro

Kahitouo Hien and team, Burkina Faso 

FasoPro is a social venture that makes nutritional products from Shea caterpillars. It is based in Burkina Faso, where half the population live below the poverty line.

The shea tree is known for its nuts, which are used in foods and cosmetics. The ‘chitoumou’ caterpillars which feed on the tree are traditionally harvested for three months of the year as a high-protein food rich in Omega 3.

FasoPro has developed a breeding system to ensure a year-round supply of the caterpillars, which it processes into a powdered meal supplement to combat malnutrition.

FasoPro products help to protect shea trees by making communities more aware of their value.

 

Okoa

Bukhary Kibonajoro, Tanzania 

This innovation is web-based software designed to combat theft of medical supplies across the Tanzanian hospital network. By monitoring medicine inventories at the national medical store and in hospitals, and reporting discrepancies to the Ministry of Health, it cuts healthcare costs and stops medicines running out.

 

MotoCharcoal

Dr Mercy Manyuchi and team, Zimbabwe 

This innovation is a cooking fuel made from leftover corn stalks and leaves. The bio-briquettes are a clean source of energy that burn with the same calorific value as charcoal. They prevent deforestation by reducing the use of charcoal or firewood.

Zimbabwe produces about 480,000 tonnes of corn waste every year, from which 24 tonnes of bio-briquettes can be produced as an affordable and environmentally-friendly energy supply.

 

Illuminum Greenhouses

Taita Ngetich and team, Kenya 

Illuminum is a greenhouse made with local materials. Its solar panel and sensor technology creates a controlled environment in which to grow crops. It addresses many of the challenges faced by Kenyan farmers, including climate change, unpredictable weather, pests, crop diseases and old technology.

The sensors monitor temperature, humidity and soil moisture and send data to farmers by text message. This lets them monitor and regulate their greenhouse without having to be on the farm. Irrigation can also be turned on and off via text message. The system works on all types of phones and the solar power makes ideal for rural areas with poor access to energy.

 

Tryctor

Olufemi Odeleye and team, Nigeria 

The Tryctor is a three-wheeled mini-tractor for small-scale farmers. It can also be used as a mobile generator. Using low-cost local components, it is affordable, easy to maintain, efficient and simple to operate.

The three-wheeled Tryctor is manufactured in Nigeria and aimed at small farmers and cooperatives. Its size to power ratio makes it a multipurpose vehicle which can also be used to transport goods.

 

Drylobag

Werner Swart, South Africa 

The Drylobag is designed to dry and store grain. Wet grain goes mouldy, but the Drylogbag prevents this by reducing the grain temperature and drying it evenly. It prevents loss of food stocks and enables farmers to harvest earlier. This reduces the risk of hail damage and crops being eaten by wildlife, and helps farmers get crops to market earlier.  The system is designed to preserve grain and oil seeds even in the high humidity typical of Africa’s most fertile regions. 

 

Notes for Editors

For further information about the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation visit: www.raeng.org.uk/AfricaPrize

 

About the 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 here: www.raeng.org.uk

 

Information cited in release

·         World Health Organisation’s Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke: http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/resources/atlas/en/

·         Heart disease in Africa: Cardiovascular Disease in the Developing World and its Cost-Effective Management: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/112/23/3547.full

·         USAid: Africa Key Facts and Figures for Child Mortality: https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1860/Africa%20Key%20Facts%20and%20Figures.pdf

 

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, Strategic Digital Transformation Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers Africa

Stephen Dawson, Chairman, Jacana Partners

Dr Moses Musaazi Senior Lecturer, Makerere University and Managing Director of Technology for Tomorrow Limited, Uganda

Dr Bola Olabisi, CEO, Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network

 

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