Kenyan Samuel Wangui with his team is among four finalists of the African Prize of Engineering Innovation sponsored and run by UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. The prize covers all disciplines of engineering from electronic engineering to civil, mechanical, oil, gas and mining engineering. Said to be Africa’s biggest award for engineering innovation, the prize is up to £25,000 of funding while each runner up receives £10,000. The overall winner will be determined in Cape Town on June 1. The aim of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is to foster, celebrate and reward innovation and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. As well, to highlight the importance of engineering in improving lives and stimulating economic development.
Although the Africa Prize is still in its first year, the application process saw entries from 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The 12 African entrepreneurs who were subsequently selected received a package of six months business training and mentoring from the Royal Academy.
The remaining four finalists are South African engineer Ernst Pretorius, Tanzanian engineer Dr. Askwar Hilonga, Zambian innovator Musenga Silwawa and a Kenyan team led by Samuel Wangui. For the prize, Samuel Wangui and team developed a SIM-card-swapping mobile application that allows users to jump between two different SIM cards and send airtime across mobile carriers. As for the others, Ernst Pretorius invented a fence-mounted security that warns owners of fires or intruders. Dr Askwar Hilonga developed a low-cost sustainable water filtration system, a sand-based water filter based on nanotechnology. Finally, Musenga Silwawa invented a fertilizer applicator that offers an alternative to manual fertilizer application for small-scale farmers.
The four finalists will present their innovations and business plans to judges at the ceremony in Cape Town before a winner is chosen. One of the judges, Stephen Dawson, a venture capitalist and chairperson of Jacan Partners in the UK noted that the finalists represent a good cross-section of African engineering talent. Another judge, Dr. Bola Olabisi, CEO of the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network commended all entrants and finalists for their revolutionary ideas.
Applications for 2015/2016 have opened today for engineers living and working in sub-Saharan Africa. Details on applying can be found on the Royal Academy of Engineering website http://www.raeng.org.uk/