On 8 June, four innovators from Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda were announced as finalists to compete for the GBP25 000 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Each of these countries are home to a previous Africa Prize winner. One of these nations will therefore see the selection of its second Africa Prize recipient in 2023.

 Scalable engineering innovations created to address high gas prices by retrofitting motorbikes to run on batteries; easily diagnose and treat uterine health issues without anaesthetic; recycle lithium-ion laptop batteries into power packs for affordable electricity; and connecting local communities through a digital rescue network to form community policing groups; have been selected as finalists for the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2023.

The Africa Prize, founded by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation. The ninth winner will be announced in Accra, Ghana, on 6 July 2023, and will be awarded GBP25 000, with the other three finalists receiving GBP10 000 each.

The finalists were selected from a shortlist of 15 African innovators for their proven ability to harness engineering to address common problems faced by Africans across the continent. The innovations tackle challenges central to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including good health and wellbeing, affordable and clean energy, peaceful and inclusive societies, and reduced inequalities.

Included in the four finalists is Nigerian electrical engineer Chukwuemeka Eze who was involved in developing the Electric Mobility, an e-mobility service which converts gas-powered three-wheel motorbikes to run on batteries. Drivers using the electric motorbikes can save up to 60% in costs on gas or petrol. He developed the Electric Mobility retrofit kit which includes lithium-ion batteries, an AC induction motor, a retrofit shaft, and an electronic controller, that acts as the inverter.

Tanzanian electrical engineer, Gibson Kawago is also a finalist. He is recycling laptop batteries to provide reliable and affordable power for electric bikes, power banks, solar lights, businesses and homes. His innovation is the WAGA Power Pack. The innovation is a response to Tanzania’s unreliable electricity supply and its impact on the economy, safety and health.

The innovations tackle challenges central to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including good health and wellbeing, affordable and clean energy, peaceful and inclusive societies, and reduced inequalities. Image credit: Pexels | Bruno Scramgnon

The innovations tackle challenges central to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including good health and wellbeing, affordable and clean energy, peaceful and inclusive societies, and reduced inequalities. Image credit: Pexels | Bruno Scramgnon

He makes his WAGA Power Pack with recycled batteries bought from informal waste collectors, including women and youth, in five regions in Tanzania. The old batteries are charged, and then tested after two-four weeks to check if they can still hold a charge equivalent to the manufacturer’s standard. If a battery’s voltage has dropped, or if it is corroded, it is sent for electrochemical recycling. Once assembled, the WAGA Power Pack is a set of lithium-ion battery packs with a strength of 12, 24 and 48 volts, suitable for different applications, such as powering lights, appliances, and heaters.

The fourth finalist, Ugandan software engineer Anatoli Kirigwajjo, was selected for the YUNGA  – a local rescue network providing low-cost security by connecting neighbours to each other and with the police. The innovation is based on the ‘ten household model’, a traditional practice in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania where people use drums to alert their community to an emergency.

YUNGA is based on an African culture of sharing, based on trust – communities are divided into networks of 10-30 households, with each receiving a YUNGA device connected to a local network and to police stations. In cases of attack or emergency, pressing a button sends a message to other devices and phones in the network, with the victim’s details and address, prompting a community response. It also works through the YUNGA mobile application. The system works in areas with no internet too – through a Long Range Wide Area Network with a 20km range. The device can be connected to an online smart phone, or to a simpler phone using SMS and an ordinary GSM phone signal. YUNGA significantly reduces security response times, particularly in rural areas where police stations are far away. Kirigwajjo wants to work with African governments to map crime hotspots, then interpret the data through machine learning and advise on security resource allocation.

South African biomedical engineer Edmund Wessels,  designed FlexiGyn, a battery-powered portable handheld device enabling gynaecologists to diagnose and treat a woman’s uterus without anaesthetic or expensive equipment, increasing women’s access to reproductive healthcare, particularly in remote areas. Typical hysteroscopy systems are rigid, leading to high levels of patient discomfort, requiring bulky additional equipment for visualisation.  

This innovative device offers a more comfortable and efficient experience for both patients and healthcare providers. In addition to the hardware, Wessels and his team are developing integrated software solutions that seamlessly connect the FlexiGyn device with existing medical practice systems. This integration connects OB/GYN specialists with GPs, radically increasing the frequency of diagnoses. Streamlining patient scheduling, electronic health record synchronisation and AI-assisted diagnosis, it optimises women’s healthcare delivery. Improved efficiency and collaboration enable healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients more frequently, enhancing the overall quality of care.

Three other South Africans were included in the initial shortlist of sixteen, and are nominated for the GBP5 000 One to Watch Award at the Africa Prize 2023 final.

Source: ben@proofafrica.co.za Harris via medialist.co.za