Last night, The Royal Academy of Engineering celebrated the 10th anniversary of the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation by awarding a special medal to the creator of Pelebox, a smart locker dispensing system that enables people living with illnesses, like HIV or AIDS, to collect their repeat chronic medication in under 30 minutes instead of waiting hours in queues at healthcare facilities. Pelebox smart lockers are now operational across 123 communities in 3 countries – already impacting the lives of 32,000 patients per month having processed over a million chronic scripts to date. 

South African innovator Neo Hutiri, the creator of Pelebox, was awarded an anniversary medal and £50,000 of investment to help accelerate his innovation, after pitching to a group of six judges at a ceremony in central London. “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,” he said. The medal is one of 35 anniversary grants, prizes, and accelerator programme awards, together worth over £1 million, being invested in African innovators solving key development challenges on the continent by the Royal Academy of Engineering. 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.

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 Njiguna 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. 

According to Rebecca Enonchong FREng, Africa Prize judge, “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.  

Shortlisted innovators included:

  • Farmz2u, Aisha Raheem, Nigeria & Kenya – Farmz2U is a dynamic supply chain technology company aimed at increasing efficiency for market players in the food system through seamless operational systems.
  • Kitovu Technology Company, Nwachinemere Emeka, Nigeria – an online platform that helps rural and remote smallholder farmers make data-driven decisions to reduce costs, increase yields and maximise sales.
  • Vertical and Micro Gardening-VMG, Paul Matovu, Uganda – VMG’s Vertical Farms utilises space to both grow a variety of plants and compost biodegradable household waste, making sustainable farming accessible in urban environments and contributing to food security and community empowerment.
  • Majik Water Technologies LTD, Beth Wanjiku Koigi, Kenya – Majik Water uses solar power to harvest moisture from the air and turn it into affordable, clean drinking water for off-grid communities.
  • Silmak-Genesis Care, Catherine Wanjoya, Kenya – Genesis Care is a system enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) to dispense and then dispose of feminine hygiene products, giving women and girls better access to affordable menstrual products.
  • Technovera-Pelebox Smart Lockers, Neo Hutiri, South Africa – Technovera is a social venture focused on inclusive technology with the aim of improving the access to chronic disease medication in Africa.
  • Kamata Online Protection Services Ltd (KOPS Ltd), Edmand Aijuka, Uganda – Kamata, meaning ‘to seize’, is a prevention system that alerts regional utility centres when power is being tampered with or manipulated.
  • Tuteria Education, Godwin Benson, Nigeria – Tuteria provides access to affordable, personalised tutoring, especially for students with academic challenges or special learning needs.
  • Science Set, Ofori Charles Antipem, Ghana – The Science Set is a highly customisable portable toolbox that contains materials needed for every basic science experiment across different science curricula in Africa.
  • BleagLee, Juveline Ngum Ngwa, Cameroon – BleagLee uses an AI-based platform to swiftly identify open waste burning, and then works with indigenous waste collectors to collect waste for processing into biofuels, thus creating sustainable employment for women, men, and young people.
  • Auto-Truck E.A Limited, Kenneth Guantai, Kenya – Auto-truck is an e-mobility company that specialises in local manufacturing, retrofitting and assembly of electric two- and three-wheelers commonly used in Kenya for last-mile connectivity.
  • Chura limited, Samuel Njuguna, Kenya – Chura is 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.

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