The Royal Academy of Engineering is investing over £1 million this year in alumni of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation programme through grants, prizes and accelerator programme awards, to facilitate long-term success of innovations addressing local challenges. The programme is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation and supporting entrepreneurs to maximise their impact and marks its 10th anniversary this year.
Outstanding alumnus of the Africa Prize, Neo Hutiri from South Africa, was awarded an anniversary medal and £50,000 to further support his business, Technovera. His product, Pelebox Smart Lockers, is designed to improve access to chronic disease medication. The award was presented by HRH The Princess Royal, the Academy’s Royal Fellow, at a ceremony that celebrated some of the most successful innovators and businesses from the past 10 years.
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The two runners-up were Aisha Raheem, with Farmz2u from Nigeria and Kenya, a business that increases efficiency for market players in the food system through seamless operational systems, and Samuel Njuguna with Chura Limited from Kenya, with a web-based, multinetwork 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. Both runners-up received £15,000 to further develop their innovations.
The remaining 10th anniversary funding will be awarded through grants and activities to boost the growth and sustainability of African-founded businesses. These initiatives include legal support, digital skills enhancement, and global networking opportunities.
Over its first decade, the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has supported more than 140 entrepreneurs across 23 African countries with a rigorous business training programme, lifelong support through its vibrant alumni network as well as engineering mentoring, communications support, and pitching opportunities. Alumni are working to tackle many of Africa’s most pressing development challenges, including access to power, food, and water security, adapting to climate change, and improving public infrastructure.
Since 2014, the alumni have collectively raised over US$39 million in finance, created over 28,000 jobs, and have introduced more than 470 products and services to the market in more than 40 countries across five continents. Over 10 million people have benefitted from the engineering innovations and employment opportunities created by Africa Prize alumni.
Neo Hutiri, winner of the Africa Prize Alumni Medal, said:
"I am honoured to have been recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering and to have been selected alongside such an accomplished group of innovators. The Prize was instrumental in accelerating Technovera-Pelebox Smart Lockers over the past five years. It has provided a community that, has in the past and continues, to support and inspire as we move forward. Thanks to this award, we aim to scale-up the work that we’ve done to reach more communities.”
Rebecca Enonchong FREng, Africa Prize judge, said:
"The impressive Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation entrepreneurs have created solutions that are actively shaping a sustainable and inclusive future for over 10 million people on the continent. The Africa Prize started a decade ago to actively enhance engineering capacity within Africa. In this time, the continent's engineering ecosystem has continued to grow and thrive and we're proud to have supported its vibrant landscape of innovation and collaboration."
Applications for the next cohort of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation will open in spring 2024.