As part of our special focus on innovation in Africa, we have developed a list of 40 remarkable African innovators. Actually, it’s more like 47 but we counted teams as one. Our decision to celebrate these idea creators and solution providers stems from our belief that the true wealth of Africa is not buried under its soil, but in the brains of its best minds. This list is a testament to that belief. It comprises Africans from every part of the continent, across diverse fields. We have brought them together because of the impact and potential of their ideas and processes in transforming the continent.

Selecting 40 African innovators (or teams of innovators) to watch from across the continent and in the Diaspora was always going to be a tough job, as our continent is peppered with incredible brains and creative hands. And while we found many talented individuals, it is important to say that African innovators remain hampered by inefficient (almost non-existent) public and private sector support. As Andrew Forbes, a world renowned scientist from South Africa and member of our list said to us in an interview, “Innovation is expensive. In my experience it takes a long, long time from the starting point of developing expertise to the final outcome of seeing commercial products. In Africa we are in a hurry for success – maybe because we feel we are so far behind – so we don’t have the patience for this game. You cannot start with the commercial product in mind from day one. We need to raise our investment in science-related fields, attract the best people back to our countries, and wait. In time, we will see the outcomes.”

Another reason for the slow manifestation of African innovations is society’s reluctance to shift base from exploiting natural resources to empowering human capacity. Professor Tebello Nyokong, the Lesotho-born scientist who led the development of photodynamic therapy for treating cancer, told us, “Innovators and innovations should be worth much more in the long run than natural resources. We need to copy countries like Norway, who have used their natural resource [oil] to invest heavily in emerging technologies. I firmly believe that we need to push for a move to a knowledge-based economy for Africa. As a final motivator, we all know that in many African countries the people often do not benefit from the vast natural wealth. This is yet another reason for investing in people so that they can create the wealth themselves through new start-ups.”

Despite these challenges, African innovators are marching on. The number of African start-ups is rising even as more people seek funding for their ideas. As the individuals on our list show, the time to innovate in Africa is now.

40 African Innovators to Watch

  • Zeinou Abdelyamine
    Bit Bait Infinity (Pesticide)
    Algeria / Agriculture

    From the beginning of civilisation, humans have had to find a way to deal with pests – whether in farms, warehouses, industrial complexes, offices, or homes. The longstanding solution to this challenge has been to use chemically produced pesticides, though these are often toxic and tend to become ineffective after a while. Zeinou Abdelyamine has come to the rescue with Bit Bait Infinity. After spending 13 years in the United Arab Emirates, Abdelyamine returned to his native Algeria and established Bit Bait, a start-up focused on developing environmentally friendly products for pest management. The start-up manufactures completely natural and chemical-free insecticides and rodenticides.

    Abdelyamine’s products use a physical rather than a chemical eradication method against pests. Rodents or insects can grow resistant to traditionally used toxic chemicals that impact the nervous system and blood circulation. In contrast, Bit Bait attacks a pest’s digestive system, leaving fewer channels for the development of resistance. Abdelyamine claims that Bit Bait’s natural components also mean it has no effect on human health, livestock, farmland and the environment in general. He further says the manufacturing process leaves no residue or waste, whether solid, liquid or gas, and does not require water for production. Bit Bait was a runner-up at the 2012 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). According to the IPA, the Bit Bait is a global breakthrough and a giant step in the fight against insects and rodents.

  • Ayodeji Adewunmi,Opeyemi Awoyemi & Olalekan Olude
    Jobberman
    Nigeria / ICT / Employment

    While many believe Nigeria’s high rate of unemployment is caused by a lack of jobs, there is another critical issue – closing the gap between talent and opportunity. This is what Ayodeji Adewunmi and his fellow co-founders are trying to accomplish through Jobberman, a Lagos-based, pan-African online job search engine. Jobberman was started by three entrepreneurs – Ayodeji Adewunmi, Opeyemi Awoyemi and Olalekan Olude – during their last year of university. The trio held a common interest in addressing Nigeria’s unemployment issues and quickly joined forces to develop the innovative platform. Today, backed by a powerful private equity firm, Jobberman has blossomed into West Africa’s most popular job site, with over one million jobseeking professionals and 23,000 employers as of June 2014.

  • Kunlé Adeyemi
    Makoko Floating School
    Nigeria / Architecture

    Makoko is one of the poorest areas in the Nigerian megacity of Lagos. Perched right on the edge of the massive Lagos,Lagoon, it is often prone to flooding, and thus many homes are built on wooden platforms that sit above the water.

    Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi had a vision to develop a sustainable community in Makoko that incorporated water as part of its central plan. His vision became a reality in March 2013 when his team completed a solar-powered school made from local materials that floats on recycled plastic barrels. The Makoko Floating School takes an innovative approach to addressing the social and physical needs of poorer communities that will suffer disproportionately in the wake of climate change and a rapidly urbanising African landscape. More importantly, the school offers children in this slum an opportunity for a similar education to those in better-resourced urban areas. The floating school was nominated for the International Award for Public Art and World Design of the Year in 2014.

  • Gloria Asare Adu
    Bamboo Forestry and Products
    Ghana / Environment

    In Ghana, about 65 percent of the rural population depends on trees for its fuel needs. Due to inadequate energy generation for both industrial and personal use, trees are cut down and burned as fuel for everything from cooking to massive industrial boilers. Ghanian Gloria Asare Adu wants this to change. Her company, Global Bamboo Products Limited Ghana (GBPL), has received commendation for producing and using the nation’s largest non-timber (bamboo) forest for the benefit of society.

    Bamboo is a strong, fast-growing grass that for centuries has been used in everything from construction to furniture making. Adu’s GBPL has extensively explored the use of bamboo as a substitute for timber in Ghana and successfully launched a series of products that promote a more ecologically conscious and affordable bamboo-supported lifestyle. The company works with processers from the Ashanti clan in Ghana’s Eastern and Western regions to produce environmentally friendly and affordable bamboo products which include charcoal, doors, jewellery, garden furniture, treated bamboo poles for construction, baskets and other handcrafts. Adu’s implementation of a creative idea used elsewhere in the world has reduced deforestation, created employment and helped in the restoration of denuded wasteland.

  • Anis Aouini and Hassine Labaied
    Saphonian
    Tunisia / Power / Renewable Energy

    The Saphonian, essentially a wind turbine, is a revolutionary technology invented to solve Africa’s energy challenges by harnessing wind energy. Developed by Anis Aouini and Hass-ine Labaied, the Saphonian is one of the cheapest, most eco-friendly, wind power solutions available.By removing some of the most expensive components of a turbine, such as blades, the hub and the gearbox (which account for about 50 percent of the total turbine cost), and adding a sail-shaped body and a hydraulic system, Aouini and Labaied succeeded in significantly slashing the manufacturing costs of the Saphonian and wind power generation. Unlike other wind technologies, their innovation is not vulnerable to wind turbulence, which helps to minimise grid connection costs.

    In 2013, Hassine Labaied and Anis Aouini received $25,000 from the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). The Saphonian is expected to enter the Tunisian market later in 2015, where it could potentially produce up to 20 percent of the country’s domestic energy.

  • Oluyombo Awojobi
    Awojobi Clinic, Eruwa (ACE)
    Nigeria / Health

    In a rural area of Nigeria where, as elsewhere on the African continent, high-quality machinery and electricity are not easily accessible, Dr Oluyombo Awojobi built a clinic that delivers quality care using techniques and improvised devices, constructed right on site.

    Dr Awojobi set up his clinic in Eruwa, Oyo State, Nigeria in 1986 after spending some years working as a surgeon at a district hospital in the same area. At ACE, he makes use of materials that are easily accessible within his immediate environment. For example, he has built a hematorcrit centrifuge from a bicycle wheel that can turn at 5,400 rpm, creating a force 3,000 times stronger than Earth’s gravity to separate oxygen-carrying red cells from a patient’s blood. He has also constructed an operating table that is 90 percent wood and 10 percent metal. Used maize cobs serve as fuel to generate the heat for terilizing surgical equipment, and rain water collected during the rainy season is stored for use in flushing toilets during the dry season. Not one to keep his life-saving knowledge to himself, Dr Awojobi has published his designs and findings in numerous international medical journals. He recently passed away in April of 2015.

  • Andrew Bastawrous
    Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK)
    Kenya / Health

    According to the WHO, 16.6 percent of blindness in Africa is avoidable. While curable, several conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, trachoma and onchocerciasis, if not diagnosed and treated early, can lead to permanent blindness. There are cost-effective remedies for these conditions, but because people across the continent lack access to adequate health facilities, many suffer needlessly.

    Andrew Bastawrous, an Egyptian ophthalmologist with a degree from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, invented the Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK), a small diagnostic device with a mobile app that turns any smartphone into a pocket-sized optical clinic. PEEK can manage and monitor the treatment of patients even in the most remote settings. Bastawrous’s commitment to vision is personal. His own vision problems as a child impacted his learning during his early school years. Now, armed with a pair of glasses and an interest in new technology, he is very committed to helping people retain and maintain their sight. He recently launched a pilot study of PEEK involving 5,000 people in Nakuru, Kenya.

  • Elise Rasel Cloete
    GMP Traceability Management Software
    South Africa / Agriculture / ICT

    Cattle rearing is a livelihood for millions of Africans. This ages-old trade has an equally ancient challenge: effectively accounting for the cattle in a herd and addressing their individuals needs. A finalist for the 2014 Innovation Prize for Africa, Elise Rasel Cloete understood the gravity of this dilemma and developed a creative solution. In 2014 she released the GMP Traceability Management Software, software that captures, stores and traces data about livestock. Animals registered within the system receive ear tags which contain a unique and verifiable number showing all the details of the animal from its birth to an eventual end at the slaughter house – all of which are stored in a remote database. Cloete’s system allows livestock owners to track stolen animals or review health histories, especially during disease outbreaks.

    The only animal tracking electronic database that allows the transfer of data for each animal from one owner in the value chain to the next throughout the animal’s lifecycle, GMP is just the beginning for farming technology in Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Moctar Dembele & Gerard Niyondiko
    FASO Soap
    Burkina Faso and Burundi / Health

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the African continent accounts for 85 percent of malaria cases and 90 percent of malaria deaths worldwide. Children below age five account for 85 percent of deaths from malaria. Burkina Faso native Moctar Dembele and Burundi native Gérard Niyondiko created the anti-malaria Faso Soap from locally sourced herbs to help reduce Africa’s malaria burden. The soap is cheap when compared to conventional anti-malaria drugs: one bar costs about $0.50 (CFA 300) only, whereas malaria treatment can cost up to $16.60 (CFA 10,000).

    Niyondiko told CNN that the soap leaves a scent on the skin that repels mosquitoes, in addition to preventing the development of mosquito larvae in waste water.
    Faso Soap won the $25,000 grand prize in the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC), launched by Berkeley MBA students.

  • Haitham Desoky
    ViViFi
    Egypt / ICT

    As a child, Haitham Desoky spent most of his time disassembling toys in order to analyse their parts. He has carried that curiosity into adulthood and entrepreneurship. While trying to create a touch-sensitive, ring-shaped computer mouse, Desoky stumbled upon the ViViFi touch sticker, an interface that can transform non-conductive surfaces with limited thickness, such as wood and glass, into touch sensors or screens. In other words, you can place ViViFi’s touch sticker under any surface to convert it into a touch pad.

    One of the best things about the product is that it can sense your hand even without physical contact and complete designated actions. With this innovation, the possibilities are endless.

  • Armand Diangiend
    The Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste de Kinshasa (OSK)
    Democratic Republic of Congo/ Art/Music

    After losing his job as a pilot, Armand Diangienda took another route and founded the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste de Kinshasa (OSK), the only all-black symphony orchestra in the world, in 1994. His orchestra uses music to tell a completely different story about the DRC, a country often characterised by indiscriminate violence and rampant poverty. Diangienda built the symphony orchestra from scratch, transforming his home into a makeshift conservatory. At inception, the group had only 12 amateur musicians, all members of Diangienda’s father’s church. All self-taught musicians, they shared instruments and often used common materials as makeshift instrument parts. OSK was the subject of an award-winning documentary by two German filmmakers. It has also been featured on the news journal, 60 Minutes. In 2012, the orchestra travelled outside Africa for the first time to perform at the TED conference in California, and later in Monaco. For his pioneering work, Armand Diangienda, received the inaugural Charles Ansbacher “Music for All” Award, and in May 2013, became an honorary member of the Royal Philharmonic Society.

  • Neil Du Preez
    Mellowcab
    South Africa / Transport

    Anyone who has lived in an urban area knows the challenge of the “last mile” – how to cover that remaining distance between the home, school, or place of work and the public transportation system. In some African cities where public transportation infrastructure is wanting, this challenge is even more acute. Neil Du Preez, a South African national, has devised a novel, environmentally friendly solution called the Mellowcab – a hybrid, man-powered and electric pedi-cab manufactured from recycled material – that makes this last segment of the journey more comfortable.

    Mellowcab is both a transportation and an advertising company. The small, tri-wheeled taxi’s distinctive interior and exterior are designed as an advertising platform to generate revenue in addition to its on-demand pick-up service. On the environmental side, the vehicle creates no carbon emissions, while its diminutive size helps to reduce traffic congestion in city centres. Several innovation champions have recognised Du Preez’s efforts; the Mellowcab won the International Smart Cities category of the Challenge Cup – a competition supported by the US Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Helen Zille, the premier of the Western Cape, awarded the Mellowcab a green flag for environmental excellence.

  • Nicolaas Duneas &Nuno Pires
    Osteogenic Bone Matrix (OBM)
    South Africa / Health

    The treatment of orthopaedic injuries is still greatly inefficient and very expensive in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, where traditional bone setters are often the only choice for those unfortunate enough to suffer fractures. Two South Africans, Nicolaas Duneas and Nuno Pires, have developed Osteogenic Bone Matrix (OBM), which has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of bone injuries.

    OBM, a product of Altis – the company which Duneas and Pires founded – is the world’s first injectable bone-graft product for the treatment of bone injuries, and uses a regenerative biological implant to help facilitate the rapid, safe and effective healing of problematic bone injuries. OBM contains naturally extracted bone growth proteins and is five times cheaper than other available procedures. Duneas and Pires won the top award at the 2014 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA)

  • Ndubuisi Ekekwe
    Advancements in Medicine
    Nigeria / ICT

    Ndubuisi Ekekwe represents the perfect blend of science, technology and entrepreneurship - the ethos of African innovations. Professor Ekwekwe started his first business – Ultinet Systems – fresh out of university, by selling computers to university lecturers and professors. Although the business was successful, he decided to go back to school. During his time at Johns Hopkins University, Professor Ekekwe conducted research around creating artificial human organs such as the retina, cochlea and the brain. A holder of two doctoral and four master’s degrees, Ekekwe is a pioneer in technology in Africa.

    Professor Ekwekwe holds two pending patents on microelectronics and has consulted for universities and the World Bank. As well as holding visiting appointments in two African universities, Professor Ekwekwe founded the African Institution of Technology, which is now sponsored by billionaire entrepreneur, Tony Elumelu.
    Professor Ekwekwe is also the founder and CEO of FASMICRO Group, which controls businesses in microelectronics, cyber security, real estate and ICT. Professor Ekwekwe has received several awards, such as the United Kingdom Congress on Computer Assisted Surgery, and was nominated for the Johns Hopkins Institutions Diversity Recognition Award.

  • Andrew Forbes
    Flame Lens
    South Africa /Research & Development

    When compared to other parts of the world, Africa may still lag behind in high-scientific research and development, but scientists such as Andrew Forbes are working to put the continent on the map. Forbes is a professor at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa – one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. He is also the lead developer on the Flame Lens, the first device to use air to focus high-powered lasers often used to cut and weld metals or to create very high temperatures for energy production. Conventional lenses made of glass and mirrors can break when used with high-powered lasers, but because the Flame Lens uses air, there is no limit on the power levels of the laser beam that can be passed through it. Most interestingly, it costs virtually nothing.

    Professor Forbes completed his PhD in Physics in 1998 but unlike most scientists, did not immediately join academia. Instead, he joined some friends at a small start-up that made gas lasers. The company had a big breakthrough when American aerospace engineering company, Lockheed Martin, awarded it a contract to build a very demanding laser. Forbes left the company in 2005, selling his shares and returning to research. He joined the CSIR National Laser Centre later that year. At the CSIR, he started a new research group in mathematical optics, which came up with the Flame Lens. Professor Forbes has spent the last 10 years working in an applied research environment, which he considers the best way to address and solve real-world problems.

  • Thereze Izay
    Traffic Robots
    Republic of Congo / ICT

    Kinshasa’s traffic is not just notoriously busy, it is also deadly, with road accidents responsible for nearly 3,000 deaths since 2007. Electrical engineer Thérèse Izay, through Women’s Technology (Wotech), developed a rather futuristic solution to counter this: a humanoid robot.

    These robots were commissioned in June 2013 with the intention to secure the safe crossing of pedestrians on Boulevard Lumumba. Mounted on the side of the road, the 2.5-metre-tall robots help regulate the flow of both vehicles and pedestrians, acting as traffic officers and traffic lights. There are now a total of five robots helping regulate the traffic in Kinshasa, together with the city’s police. The latest robots also issue tickets. An innovation that is still developing, Izay’s imaginative solution may soon be replicated across other African cities.

  • Captain Abubakar Surajo Imam
    Removable Burglary Prevention Bars
    Nigeria / Infrastructure (Construction)

    Across the continent, security has always been an issue –especially in countries where citizens lack faith in law enforcement. In urban areas, many houses sit behind high walls and have windows covered by burglary proofing of some form or another, usually gates or iron rods that cover existing windows and doors. However, these home protections can also trap residents inside in times of danger, such as fires or armed robberies. Nigerian Army Captain, Abubakar Surajo Imam, has developed a very simple yet crucial piece of technology that effectively enhances the security of a building while also acting as an emergency exit. Imam’s burglary bars have a unique locking mechanism that can only be accessed from inside a building. This makes windows and doors that have them completely impenetrable from the outside but accessible from the interior when residents are faced with imminent danger.

    The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) placed Imam’s burglar bar invention on its shortlist for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, describing it as flexible, versatile, and efficient for homes or business places. Captain Imam is a mechanical engineer with the Nigerian Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (NAEME) Corps and has also served at the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) Kaduna, where he was instrumental in the development of Nigerian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). He is also the author of several international conference papers in addition to pursuing his doctoral degree in the School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering, Newcastle University.

  • Johan Jonker & Pettie Petzer
    Hippo Water Roller
    South Africa / Infrastructure

    Many communities on the African continent suffer from water scarcity. Residents often trek long miles to obtain water from wells and boreholes. Women and children have to transport large containers of water on their heads over long distances. The Hippo Water Roller is a solution to this problem.

    Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker collaborated to invent the Hippo Water Roller, a barrel-shaped container with a large screw-cap and clip-on steel handle, able to transport 90 litres of water with ease. Its size enables women and children to collect five times more water than when using a single bucket, while its innovative design allows for easy transportation by simply rolling it along the ground. Originally called the ‘Aqua Roller’, the Hippo Water Roller’s positive social impact is far-reaching, and it saves time and energy, alleviating the suffering caused by a lack of access to water in rural communities.

  • Kago Kagichiri & Toni Maraviglia
    Eneza
    Kenya / Education
    Access to education remains a major challenge across Sub-Saharan Africa. For those lucky enough to be in school, learning poses an even greater challenge. According to the Brookings Centre for Universal Education (CUE), 61 million African children will reach adolescence lacking even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills. Eneza, a virtual tutor and teacher’s assistant that runs on low-cost mobile phones, is helping to improve both the reach and quality of education on the continent. Eneza means “to reach” or “to spread” in Kiswahili. The programme, which offers quizzes and textbook material to schools, parents and students at a low cost, was created by Kenyan national Kago Kagichiri and American Toni Maraviglia, a former fellow at Teach for America, who shared a vision for improving Kenya’s educational system. Eneza’s mission is to make 50 million children across rural Africa smarter, and they are well on their way to doing so. Today, Eneza is used in more than 5,000 public schools across Kenya by more than 300,000 students. There are future plans to expand to Tanzania and Ghana as well.
  • Su Kahumbu-Stephanou
    iCow
    Kenya / Agriculture / ICT

    Three years ago, Ventures Africa interviewed Su Kahumb-Stephanou who told us, “I am strangely unable to plan. I’ll see where iCow leads me.” Today, iCow, her agriculture-focused mobile application, has led the Kenyan organic farmer and social entrepreneur to global recognition.

    iCow enables farmers to access information, agricultural education tools and other services through their mobile phones. It has several features, including the world’s first mobile cow calendar, which helps farmers to track their cows’ oestrus cycles. This ensures the cows are of optimal health and produce at maximum yield – a calf a year plus 308 days of milk. In addition, iCow has features that link farmers to agricultural experts, veterinarians, a virtual market place, and an SMS feature provding agricultural education services. With mobile penetration in Africa now over 80 percent, Kahumbu-Stephanou’s application makes use of a huge network of connectivity to get important tools directly to farmers. Today, there are 42,000 farmers on the iCow database. iCow has won several awards, including the 2010 Apps4Africa competition sponsored by the US Department of State. Kahum-bu-Stephanou also runs Greendreams Ltd, a company that markets organic produce from small-holder farmers across Kenya.

  • David Kobia & Juliana Rotich
    Ushahidi
    Kenya / ICT

    Juliana Rotich and David Kobia are at the forefront of youngAfricans shaping the continent with a blend of innovation and social activism. Rotich and Kobia are the founders of Ushahidi, a global non-profit technology company that crowd sources information about crisis areas and incubates start-ups. Ushahidi, a Swahili word meaning testimony, was first developed as a website to cover Kenya’s 2008 presidential election. It helped collate reports on incidents of violence into live online maps. The site has since expanded to cover crisis flashpoints in Africa and across the globe.

    Rotich and Kobia have also used Ushahidi to birth iHub, one of Kenya’s most prolific technology hubs. According to the Ushahidi website, iHub now has over 14,000 members and has incubated 150 tech start-ups that have created over 1,000 jobs. Ushahidi also runs a $55-million fund in partnership with Hivos and the Institute of Development Studies, which supports developers of creative solutions capable of transforming relationships between citizens and their governments. Apart from being the executive director of Ushahidi, Rotich is a widely respected commentator on technology in Africa and a strong campaigner for environmental protection. In 2011, the World Economic Forum named her the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year in Africa. Kobia, the company’s director of technology, is responsible for the technical aspects of Ushahidi’s development. In 2010, the MIT Technology Review listed him as one of its top Young Innovators Under 35, and named him the Humanitarian of the Year.

  • Samuel Malinga
    DuraSan (Pit Latrine Emptying Device)
    Uganda / Infrastructure (Sanitation)

    Water.org, an NGO focused on water and sanitation, notes that 23.3 million people in Uganda (about 62 percent of the population) have no sanitation services. Many Ugandan citizens rely heavily on traditional pit latrines which are often overused, easily flooded and not emptied regularly.

    Samuel Malinga, an agricultural engineer with special interests in water, sanitation and technology development, is trying to change this. Malinga developed a low-cost pit latrine emptying device, alongside developing new transport models that improve the ability to treat and re-use faecal sludge (solid waste) as a biofuel. This has helped to reduce Uganda’s frequent outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery. For his innovations, Malinga was nominated for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s (RAEng) Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

  • Ludwick Marishane
    Drybath
    South Africa / Cosmetics / Environment

    In a world where 2.5 billion people lack access to clean water Ludwick Marishane’s Drybath gel is an effective alternative to water-gulping showers and baths. Drybath is a topical gel that cleans just as effectively as soap and water when applied to the skin.

    According to Marishane, Drybath, which sells for $3 per sachet (one bath), can save up to 40 litres of water per session. Marishane, who is only 24 years old, conceptualised Drybath while still in high school. By the time he finished, he had earned a patent and launched his start-up, Headboy Industries. Drybath gel won Marishane $10,000 from the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards Program to finance his start-up.

  • Souleymane Mboup
    HIV Testing
    Senegal / Health

    Renowned Senegalese Professor of Microbiology, Souleymane Mboup, found a way to separate DNA from white blood cells infected with HIV-2. Furthermore, he was able to significantly lower the cost of the tests in Senegal that confirm both HIV-1 and HIV-2 viral infections, reducing this from $25 to just $0.30. He currently leads the country’s HIV epidemiology sentinel surveillance programme and has spearheaded the push to grant HIV-positive people in Senegal access to free antiretroviral treatment. His broader work includes research in tuberculosis and malaria treatment.

    Professor Mboup has won numerous awards for his scholarship and HIV work. His laboratory at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, serves as a reference laboratory for UNAIDS and a capacity-building facility for those involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

  • Logou Minsob
    Foufoumix
    Togo / Agriculture / Manufacturing

    Foufou, a meal made from ground cassava or yam, is the staple of food of much of West and Central Africa. Preparing foufou is a labour-intensive process that usually involves women peeling and pounding tubers. It can take several hours. Logou Minsob’s innovation, the Fofoumix, is a tabletop food processor that removes much of the stress from foufou making, streamlining the process and making it more efficient and hygienic.

    An electrical engineer by profession, Minsob developed the Fofoumix in order to help free up the African woman, who spends long, arduous hours in the kitchen. Through this innovation he also pays attention to the African tastes and concerns often ignored by international manufacturers. Foufoumix has recently attracted investment from a Togolese Bank to aid its expansion.

  • Thenjiwe Nkosi & Pamela Phatsimo
    Sunstrum “DISRUPTERS: THIS IS DISRUPTER X”
    (A Performance Art Piece)
    South Africa & Botswana / Art

    Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum have a collaborative practise based in a style they have termed “African-Futurism”, however these two artists could not bemore different in their individual subject matter and style. Their partnership has brought about a revolutionary new way of illuminating and addressing a number of the issues that they find most concerning about the African continent and the wider world. Their latest collaboration, a performance art piece called “DISRUPTERS: THIS IS DISRUPTER X” is what they call “anti-opera” in which a female anti-hero navigates numerous obstacles on her quest to free the world from the clutches of an ambiguous and shadowy entity called ‘The Agency’. Nkosi and Sunstrum’s work combines artistic expression, historical contextualisation, and audience participation to tell the story of Africa’s history and how the continent might shape a better future.

    Both Nkosi and Sunstrum are accomplished artists with numerous awards and residencies to their names – most recently awarded a residency at the prestigious Iwalewahaus African Art Archive at the University of Bayeruth, Germany where they performed the latest iteration of their anti-opera. They share a studio in Johannesburg and have jointly presented DISRUPT-ERS: THIS IS DISRUPTER X in multiple places around the world including France, Germany and now, South Africa.

  • Justus Nwaoga
    Mimosa Weed Solar Energy
    Nigeria / Power/ Renewable Energy

    Professor Justus Nwaoga is a Nigerian man with a mission. He is the chief engineer in the Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry Department at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, and has turned a common weed into a potentially viable source of solar technology.

    Professor Nwaoga discovered the potential of the weed mimosa pudica in accumulating solar energy when he noticed that its leaves opened at sunrise and folded at sunset. Further exploration showed that the plants contain a compound he calls “black silicon”, which is responsible for their sensitivity to light. Professor Nwaoga has used the same pigments extracted from the weed to create solar panels which have generated attention from places as far afield as China – the world’s leading manufacturer of solar panels. The author of Plant Weed for Solar Cell Development, Professor Nwaoga was one of 10 finalists for the Innovation Prize for Africa in 2013.

  • Tebello Nyokong
    Photodynamic Therapy
    South Africa / Research & Development / Health

    According to the WHO, more than 60 percent of the world’s cancer cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. These areas also accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s cancer deaths. Sometimes the chemotherapy and radiation therapy used to treat cancer can be as damaging as the disease itself. One African woman, Tebello Nyokong, a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology at Rhodes University in South Africa, has been leading the development of a safer and more effective alternative treatment. Professor Nyokong and her team developed photodynamic therapy (PDT), a new cancer diagnosis and treatment methodology that is less invasive and more efficient than chemotherapy. PDT uses the same kind of dye that colours blue jeans, together with lasers to efficiently highlight and kill cancerous cells. The therapy does not destroy hair, healthy cells or cause nausea as do some other cancer treatments. Nyokong’s early work on PDT so impressed the National Laser Centre in South Africa that in 2002 it granted her a long-term loan of equipment worth $300,000. She is also the first South African scientist to win the L’Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science.

    In addition to creating PDT, Professor Nyokong continues to do outstanding work in research and in training chemists, particularly women. She is the director of the Nanotechnology Innovation Centre at Rhodes University, and was a member of South Africa’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Strategic Review Committee. She is also a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) High-level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development.

  • Okechukwu Ofili
    Okada Books
    Nigeria / Literature / ICT

    With one innovation Okechukwu Ofili has provided an effective solution to two of Nigeria’s biggest literary headaches: the deteriorating reading culture and a lack of access to indigenous literature. Ofilli’s Okada Books is an easy-to-access online bookstore and mobile app that makes thousands of Nigerian books available to readers on their personal computers or mobile devices.

    Ofilli, an author and engineer, says that Okada Books seeks to harness the power of the mobile phone to make it easier and cheaper for Nigerians to read. His application currently has over 8,000 books, 27,000 users and 316,000 downloads. Okada Books was named the “MTN App of the Year” for 2013.

  • Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor
    Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing
    Nigeria / Literature

    Nigerian-American, Nnedi Okorafor, is one of the most successful sojourners in the world of science fiction and fantasy literature. Okorafor has received global recognition for the creative blend of African culture, science fiction and magical realism that she brings to life in her books. Several of her novels and short stories have received awards and positive reviews. Among them, her novel Zahrah the Windseeker has won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature and her novel Who Fears Death won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.

    Okorafor began writing as a way to cope with the complication of paralysis that resulted from surgery to correct her severe scoliosis. She had been a star athlete and tennis player in high school and college, but the complications and subsistent recovery cut short the possibility of career in sports. As Okorafor’s sporting dreams faded, her passion for writing germinated and blossomed, and she went on to earn her Master’s and PhD in English. She is now a professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Buffalo.

  • Oyekunle Ayinde Olukotun
    Multi-core processors
    Nigeria / ICT

    Fellow of the globally acclaimed Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Professor Olukotun is a pioneer of multi-core processors – a foundation of the IT revolution of the past three decades. In the mid-1990s, Olukotun and his colleagues argued that multi-core computer processors were likely to make better use of hardware than existing designs. In 2000, while a professor at Stanford, Olukotun founded Afara Web systems, a company that designed and manufactured multi-core, SPARC-based computer processors for data centres.

    Following Olokutun’s discovery, Intel and other IT giants began to develop multi-core processes during the early 2000s. They have become the base of modern Central Processing Unites (CPUs), the key component of any computer system.In 2008, Olukotun founded the Pervasive Parallelism Laboratory at Stanford after gathering $6 million in funding from several computer industry corporations. The laboratory explores how to increase the efficiency of computers and programming languages.
    Olukotun is a member of the board of advisors of UDC, a Nigerian venture capital firm. He was also elected as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 2006 for his “contributions to multiprocessors on a chip and multi-threaded processor design”.

  • Mohamed Sanad
    Base Station Antenna
    Egypt / ICT

    Africa’s embrace of mobile technology has been a catalyst for the continent’s resurgence since the turn of the millennium. Mohamed Sanad, a professor of engineering at Cairo University, is among those at the forefront of this change pushing African innovation in mobile technology.

    In 2012, Professor Sanad designed a base station antenna which makes it easier for telecommunication service providers to upgrade their networks without having to change base stations. His invention is a durable, lower cost, and more efficient antenna able to cover varying frequency bands.Thanks to the antenna, Sanad won an Innovation Prize for Africa in 2012. The IPA said of his innovation: “[it] exemplifies the kind of leapfrog solutions with practical market potential that inspire the IPA secretariat and investors.”Apart from the base station antenna, Professor Sanad has made other significant contributions to antenna theory, and holds 16 patents.

  • Khaled Shady
    Mubser
    Egypt / Health

    Almost 10 percent of the world’s blind people live in Africa, and most of them need a human guide to move around. This could change because of Mubser, an invention that helps blind people regain independence, developed by Egyptian Khaled Shady and three of his friends. Mubser is a wearable belt with a Bluetooth-connected headset that leverages digital red, green and blue (RGB) imaging and infrared data captured by a 3D camera to assist the visually impaired in identifying and navigating around everyday obstacles such as walls, chairs and staircases. Mubser began as a school project, but after graduating from Menoufiya University in Egypt, Shady and his friends decided to turn their idea into the start-up that he now leads as CEO.

    Shady says Mubser has been tested on a handful of visually impaired people in Egypt, with positive results. The innovation, incubated at the Venture Lab at the American University in Cairo — one of the largest universities in Egypt – has since been recognised by several platforms and nominated for several awards. In 2013, Shady was one of the finalists for the Anzisha Prize, which recognises young African entrepreneurs who are using entrepreneurship to solve problems in their communities. Last year, the Kairos Society, a US-based NGO, named Shady among its 2014 K50 Emerging Global Entrepreneurs to Watch, and Mubser as having the potential to support millions of blind and visually impaired people.

  • Anastase Tabaro
    Rwanda / Power / Renewable Energy
    Hydroelectric dam

    In 2011, only 14 percent of Rwandans had electricity. Unable to purchase an expensive generator and unwilling to surrender to darkness, Anastase Tabaro developed his own hydroelectric dam to provide electricity for his household and 600 neighbours.

    Tabaro had just six years of elementary education, but that did not discourage him from pursuing intensive research to develop a hydroelectric system for his community. After moving to Rwanda from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 1990s, Tabaro began to explore how to use water sources in Rutare village, Rwanda to create energy. He eventually built a turbine and constructed a barrage dam able to control the flow of water to, and ultimately the power output of, the generator. Tabaro’s innovation gained attention from the Rwandan government, which eventually supported his project by installing electrical poles in the village to help transmit electricity.

  • Melesse Temesgen
    Aybar Broad Bed Furrows Maker
    Ethiopia / Agriculture

    Nearly five million hectares of land in Ethiopia, and a much larger area across Africa, cannot be farmed because they are water logged. Water logging suffocates crops, causing reduced yields or even complete crop failure. The highlands of Ethiopia suffer greatly from this problem. Farmers can use only 25 percent of an estimated 7.6 million hectares of fine-textured, poor-drainage land, known as vertisols, for crop production. Dr Melesse Temesgen’s Aybar Broad Bed Furrows Maker helps to reduce water logging and make crop rearing easier.

    Broad bed furrows are shallow troughs intended to help drain excess water from soil. The Aybar Broad Bed and Furrows Maker (BBM) is a low-cost, light-weight tool that farmers can use to plough waterlogged fields. This technology has the potential to triple the income of farmers who use it. To date, over 47,000 units have been sold in Ethiopia alone. At the Innovation Prize for Africa 2014, Dr Temesgen won the Special Prize for Innovation with the Highest Social Impact.

  • Abdoulaye Touré
    Solar oven
    Senegal / Power/ Renewable Energy

    Years before the idea of harnessing solar energy became popular in Africa, Abdoulaye Touré was already on the job. He started designing and manufacturing solar ovens in 1990 as an alternative to cooking stoves and burning firewood. By 1992, his solar oven technology had spread across Senegal. Winner of first prize at the Tambacoumba Techno-Fair in Eastern Senegal, the former teacher now has over 250 oven models, all of which are manufactured in Senegal. Cheap to acquire and easy to maintain, Touré says his solar ovens have a lifespan of 10 years. While his earliest models reached a peak temperature of 110 °C, the latest models can achieve temperatures of over 200 °C.

    Touré does more than just sell his ovens, he also teaches his consumers how to maintain and build them. The oven’s mechanics are quite simple: its reflector captures sunlight and concentrates it into heat that increases the oven’s temperature. The Solar Oven won Touré Senegal’s first prize of Invention and Innovation in 1998. A year later he won the CIPEA prize (Centre International pour la Création de l’Entreprise en Afrique or International Center for the Creation of Enterprise in Africa).

  • Ashley Uys
    Malaria Diagnostic Kit
    South Africa / Health

    Malaria costs African economies an estimated $12 billion a year in lost productivity, as well as accounting for the death of thousands each year. Ashley Uys, a 31-year-old with a degree in biotechnology from the University of the Witwatersrand, has developed a $0.40 malaria diagnostic kit that could help to significantly reduce the number of undiagnosed and untreated malaria cases in Africa and the world.

    Uys’s test kit can indentify as few as 100 malaria parasites per millilitre of blood, thus helping in early detection and treatment of the disease. Uys founded the company, Real World Diagnostics, to develop the new technology. He has won numerous awards and was a finalist for the 2014 Innovation Prize for Africa

  • Cyprian Emeka Uzoh
    Chip Interconnection Technology
    Nigeria / Device Hardware and Device Communication
    Technology

    A technologist, scientist and prolific inventor, Cyprian Emeka Uzoh holds more than 300 semiconductor patents worldwide and is co-author of more than 35 publications in scientific journals. He is a pioneer in the field of computer electronics and has discovered, co-developed and co-implemented various critical elements and technologies, which have led to the successful implementation of copper interconnect technology at companies like the IBM Corporation. Uzoh is also responsible for the bottom-up metal plating process in submicron features, a critical technology used across the breath of the semiconductor industry in today’s cell phones, laptops, servers and super computers.

    After finishing secondary school in eastern Nigeria, Uzoh attended college and graduate school in the United States where he studied metallurgical engineering. Holder of Patent number 6709562: Method of Making Electroplated Interconnection Structures on Integrated Circuit Chips, which was a key development in chip technology, Uzoh is likely responsible forthe developments that have empowered Africa’s mobile technology explosion by making components smaller and cheaper.

  • Zane Wilson
    The Speaking Book
    South Africa / Health

    Zane Wilson is the chairman and founder of the largest mental health NGO in Africa: the South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group (SADAG). She created the Speaking Book, a tool which improves health workers’ ability to provide mental healthcare information to low-literacy communities where such issues are prevalent but not discussed. The book addresses issues that cause depression, such as unemployment and poverty, and also acts as a health guide for illnesses such as Malaria, TB, HIV and AIDS.

    Prior to founding SADAG in 1994, Wilson was a successful entrepreneur in marketing, sports management and ICT. She is frequently quoted in the media and appears regularly on TV and radio to promote mental health causes and patient needs in Africa. Wilson has received numerous awards for her work, including the South African Woman of the Year for Health and the WHO and Federation of Mental Health Award.


  • Marc “Arthur” Zang
    Cardiopad
    Cameroon / Health

    Marc Arthur Zang is a software designer and researcher in biomedical engineering. In 2010 he invented the Cardiopad, the first medical touch tablet in Africa, a device that performs remote heart examinations and cardiac diagnosis. The touch screen device has electrodes placed on the skin above a patient’s heart that can transmit a digitised heart signal over a mobile network via a Bluetooth interface. The Cardiopad is Zang’s solution to the lack of cardiologists in his native Cameroon, a situation he encountered during an internship programme at the General Hospital of Yaounde. The scientific community in Cameroon has carried out several tests of Zang’s Cardiopad and considers it very effective.

    In 2011, the Cameroonian government provided funding for Zang to found Himore Medical, the first medical embedded systems manufacturer in the Central Africa region. He is currently Himore Medical’s chief engineer and CEO.

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