Ugandan Innovators dominate the 2018 Africa Prize shortlist, ahead of Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya

The Royal Academy of Engineering has announced 2018  shortlist for its Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, and Ugandan innovators have dominated the list. The announcement was made by the Academy in Cape Town, South Africa. Where all the shortlisted innovators are. 

The shortlist, which is dominated by Ugandans - with four innovations - recognizes the most talented engineers from across sub-Saharan Africa.


The Ugandans are Alvin Kabwama, Brian Gitta (who was represented by Shaifc Sekitto), Arthur Woniala, and Lawrence Okettayot. Uganda was followed by Kenya and Nigeria with three innovations each. The total list has 16 innovators. (See also: Alvin Kabwama on His Experience in Silicon Valley and Why Innovating in Health isn’t for the Get-Rich-Quick).


This year's includes innovators working to make malaria and reproductive health tests easier, using dolphin-inspired echo-location for visually impaired people. As well as recovering precious metals from car parts for re-use in manufacturing. 


The Africa Prize, launched in 2014 by the Royal Academy of Engineering, is awarded after a six-month programme.


This, according to the official press release from the academy, provides a unique package of support, including funding, comprehensive business training, bespoke mentoring and access to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s network of high profile, experienced engineers, and business development experts.


The shortlist, which represents the fourth group of engineers supported through the Africa Prize, also features several digital innovations.


Among them are mobile apps that grant micro-loans within minutes, an app that makes it easy for musicians to manage bookings and sell merchandise, and another to help commuters book one of the 20,000 trips taken daily on motorcycle taxis in the city of Kigali, Rwanda.


Agricultural innovations also feature strongly. They include sensors that send soil information to farmers’ phones straight from the field, an online platform that helps farmers triple their yield, and a low-tech dehydrator that extends the shelf-life of crops tenfold, improving food security.


“Turning engineers into entrepreneurs is vital to unlocking the creative solutions that exist across Africa,” said Africa Prize judge, Moses Musaazi said in the press release.

"The Africa Prize’s support gives engineers the confidence to approach funders, clients and investors, and the knowledge to improve their supply chain and business models.”

The Africa Prize also recognizes process engineering represented this year by innovations to generate power from the many radio waves that are around us every day, and for producing affordable biogas from manure for household use.


Two educational solutions include an app that hosts a variety of courses and a mini-science lab that fits into an ordinary school backpack. A smart meter that allows customers to manage their utilities, and a solar-powered walk-in cold room complete the impressive shortlist.


“The Africa Prize recognizes talented engineers from across the continent – supporting countries that aren’t typically seen as a source of innovation,” said Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize judge.

“This diversity helps drive more innovation during the programme, amplifying their potential for real economic and social impact.”

After six months of mentoring and training, four finalists will be selected from the shortlist. In June 2018 the finalists will present their businesses to judges in front of a live audience, after which one winner will receive £25,000, and three runners-up will be awarded £10,000 each.

The shortlisted candidates are:

  • Alvin Kabwama from Uganda with UriSAF Maternal and Sexual Reproductive Health Care Kit, which tests urine quickly, accurately and affordable.
  • Arthur Woniala from Uganda with Khainza Energy Gas, a cheap biogas made from manure and safe for household use.
  • Brian Gitta from Uganda with Matibabu, a low-cost reusable device that tests for malaria quickly and accurately without drawing blood
  • Brian Mwiti Mwenda from Kenya with The Sixth Sense, a handheld echolocation device with ultrasonic sensors that alert visually impaired users to objects nearby
  • Collins Tatenda Saguru from South Africa with an economical, environmentally sustainable process to recover and re-use precious metals from cars
  • Daniel Taylor from Ghana with HWESOMAME, a low-cost smart sensor that accurately detects soil conditions and notifies farmers via text or phone call
  • Emeka Nwachinemere from Nigeria with Kitovu, an online platform that helps farmers in remote locations to increase crop yields and sell their produce
  • Esther Gacicio from Kenya with eLearning Solutions, an interactive online programme that hosts courses for individuals or serves as a tool for training institutions
  • Ifediora Emmanuel Ugochukwu from Nigeria with the iMeter and AMI solution, which gives electricity consumers and power utilities control over electricity use
  • Lawrence Okettayot from Uganda with Sparky Dryer, a low-tech dehydrator that dries fruit and vegetables to extend their shelf life and reduce food wastage
  • Michael Asante-Afrifa from Ghana with Science Set, a mini science lab with all the materials needed to do the science experiments in a school syllabus
  • Monicah Mumbi Wambugu from Kenya with Loanbee, a mobile phone application that calculates the user’s credit scores and grants micro-loans
  • Nges Njungle from Cameroon with Muzikol, an online music marketing and social media app designed to meet all the career needs of musicians
  • Nnaemeka Chidiebere Ikegwuono from Nigeria with ColdHubs, solar-powered walk-in cold rooms that extend the life of perishable food tenfold
  • Peter Kariuki from Rwanda with SafeMotos, an app that connects commuters to the safest motorcycle drivers in Kigali, Rwanda
  • Shalton Mphodisa Mothwa from South Africa with AEON Power Bag, which allows users to charge their phones on the go by converting radio waves and solar energy into power.

This is not the first time Uganda is getting represented on the Africa Prize shortlist. Let alone have an innovator among the winners. This year, Yaaka Digital Learning Network  - an online platform where teachers and students can share their academic knowledge as well as materials - by Hindu Nabulumba was among the three runners-ups that walked away with $10,000 each.


The Africa Prize is supported by The Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund and the UK Government's Global Challenges Research Fund.

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