A dozen entrepreneurs shortlisted for the 2nd Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation have ideas to improve food security, health care and energy access.
The Africa Prize is run by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK. The 2016 shortlist is undergoing business training to turn engineers into entrepreneurs before the winner is announced in Tanzania in May.
Arthur Zang from Cameroon developed the Cardio-Pad when he was only 23. It can be used by anyone with medical training, important in a country like Cameroon, with only about 50 cardiologists for 22 million citizens.
For a modest subscription to the Cardio-Pad network, anyone can access a heart from any clinic, health organisation or hospital, and receive feedback from a cardiologist over a cellphone network within 20 minutes.
Totohealth is a support network for pregnant women and young parents, who can receive text messages twice a week about what to expect from their pregnancy or child’s development.
“No mother or child should die from a lack of information,” says Malele Ngalu, co-founder of Totohealth.
In Tanzania, another engineer is working to ensure medicine gets to patients it is meant for.
“The theft of medicine in Tanzania costs people their lives,” says Bukhary Kibonajoro.
His Okoa software tracks medicines. Pharmacies, dispensaries and distribution centres are linked to ensure no supplies go missing.
Three energy projects have also been selected for the Africa Prize shortlist.
Zimbabwean chemical engineer Dr Mercy Manyuchi has developed a process to turn agricultural waste into a charcoal replacement that burns with the same intensity as coal, with none of the health and environmental effects.
“There’s no reason for something as simple as cooking food to harm people or the environment,” she says.
Her MotoCharcoal briquettes add value to waste and reduce reliance on coal.
South African Matt Wainwright from Standard Microgrid developed a power grid in a box for remote communities.
“Humanity can power Rovers on Mars but we still struggle to electrify rural Africa,” Wainwright says.
Standard MicroGrid generates power through solar panels, stores it in batteries, sells it at a fraction of the cost of grid-electricity, and distributes it to homes. Local managers distribute credit for electricity via a cellphone app and households pay only for the power they need.
What good is electricity, however, if it does not make it to your home? This is the problem that Edmand Aijuka, a 23-year-old electrical engineer from Uganda, aims to solve. Kamata is a device built into household power metres. It alerts control centres when power networks are tampered with, cuts power to the point of disturbance, and restores power once the problem is resolved.
Six of the 2016 Africa Prize shortlist have engineering solutions that aim to improve crop yields, food security and nutrition.
Kenyan engineering student Brian Bosire designed UjuziKilimo to help farmers maximise their yield. UjuziKilimo measures soil properties through sensors that go directly into the ground. The system sends crop and nutrient information to the farmer via text messages.
To reduce farming risks from unpredictable weather, Kenyan innovator Taita Ng’etich developed low-cost solar powered Iluminum Greenhouses, with sensors that monitor and automate irrigation, and can be controlled remotely by any phone.
Werner Swart from South Africa developed the Drylobag to stop harvested grains rotting, a 500 million ton annual problem. His bags dry grain evenly to reduce moisture content. This makes grain storage possible in areas where there is no formal silo infrastructure.
Olufemi Odeleye from Nigeria developed the Tryctor to help small-scale farmers. Affordable and easy on maintenance, it can switch from pulling implements to transporting goods, and also serve as a mobile generator.
Tapping into a market of 800 million people eating cassava, Professor Emmanuel Bobobee from Ghana has developed an affordable mechanical harvester.
“Cassava is not just a crop,” he says. “It’s used to make paper, medicine, textiles and even beer. And it’s time we invested in this resource.”
Kahitouo Hien from Burkina Faso developed food products made from shea tree caterpillars. The powdered nutritional supplement presents an opportunity to tackle malnutrition, containing three times the levels of protein found in beef and far more iron.
Read about the innovations at www.raeng.org.uk.