African Innovation Prize reveals continent's dazzling talent, Moroccan gets top spot with livestock antibiotic

The prize attracted 925 entries from 41 countries.

THE African Innovation Foundation has hosted the 4th edition of the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) awards, held in Morocco. This year was one of the best yet with the Innovation Prize for Africa attracting 925 entries from 41 countries.

The top $100,000 prize went to Moroccan a scientist for developing a natural alternative to livestock antibiotics. His patented alternative, which can be added to the animal’s feed or drinking water, was developed from naturally-occurring molecules he found had anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties. 

The natural, innovative formula reduces the health hazard to cattle and humans, and prevents the transmission of multi-resistant germs and possible carcinogens through meat, eggs and milk to humans at no extra cost to farmers. A ground-breaking discovery for Africa’s farmers who will have the opportunity to improve their production and address the rise of drug-resistant diseases. 

Two other $25,000 prizes were awarded. 

The winner of innovation with the best business potential was Alex Mwaura Muriu from Kenya. The entrepreneur developed “Farm Capital Africa”, an agri-business model which allows farmers to find investors and share the risk of growing crops, even on small farms. The initiative identifies, screens and shortlists full-time farmers with small holdings and helps them devise farming plans to attract potential investors who earn profits over time. This is a viable solution to address the inability of committed, small scale African “agripreneurs”—who lack collateral and credit history to access traditional financing—from expanding their operations. An attractive farming initiative and investment option for those with extra capital, benefitting both small scale farmers and investors. 

The prize for innovation with the highest social impact was awarded to South African Lesley Erica Scott for developing “Smartspot TBCheck”, a machine that examines the accuracy of machines used to diagnose TB, reducing instances of inaccurate diagnosis. 

These incredible innovations had fierce competition from around the continent, demonstrating the challenges Africans face and the social-economic transformation that individuals are striving for. Other finalists, as described by the Foundation, included:

David Gluckman, South Africa: Lumkani fire detection

An off-the-shelf fire detection device and alert service that uses radio frequency (RF) transmission technology suitable for informal dwellings. In the event of a fire, the device triggers an alarm to alert the family. Within 20 seconds, the device transmits a signal that sets off heat detectors in a 60 meter radius to elicit a community-wide response to the fire. This device prevents fires from ravaging high population density communities and boosting community mobilisation efforts.

Jean Bosco Kazirukanyo, Burundi: New type of cement “OSP” that protects waters against carcinogenic lubrication oil spills

A new formulation of cement that can be sprinkled on fresh or old lubricant and oil spills. The cement chemically reacts with the contaminants to form tiny lumps that can be easily removed and deposited in designated plastic bins before being transported to concrete plants where they can be used as concrete additives. This innovation effectively contains and recycles ecologically harmful oil spills that are currently being disposed of in an unsustainable manner across Africa, causing huge ecological damage.

Johann Pierre Kok, South Africa: Scientific engineering educational box: ‘Seebox’

A scientific engineering educational box that allows children to enjoy a practical and experimental way of learning the sciences and electronics, and measuring almost anything electronic or scientific. ‘Seebox’ also offers short videos explaining what is being measured. This tool addresses the shortage of electronic and scientific professionals, and affords children the opportunity to learn first-hand the principles of science and electronics by building, measuring and experimenting.

Kyai Mullei, Kenya: M-changa, also known as E-harambee

A mobile application that empowers individuals and organisations to initiate and manage fundraisers via sms or web devices in an efficient and cost effective way. Combining mass market mobile communication with money transfer technologies, m-changa allows users to solicit support for a cause, track contributions, and withdraw funds using their mobile phones without relying on internet connectivity. This innovation brings the benefits of mobile technology to all Africans, integrating unique aspects of African culture with technological innovation.

Marc Arthur Zang, Cameroon: The cardio-pad

An affordable tablet that records and processes the patient’s ECG (heart signal) before transferring it to a remote station using mobile phone networks. The device can be used in village hospital and clinic settings in the absence of a cardiologist.  ECG results can be downloaded on a tablet by the cardiologist. The examination is then interpreted using cardio-pad’s computer-assisted diagnostic embedded application, then results and prescription transmitted to the nurse performing the procedure. This will ensure effective monitoring of heart patients living in rural areas with limited or no access to cardiologists.

Neil Du Preez, South Africa: Mellowcabs

This is a suite of technologies that includes recovering the kinetic energy that is typically lost in the braking process, converting it into electricity and storing it. Other associated innovations include hydrogen fueled Mellowcabs, adaptable, renewable body shells and an app to book cab rides that can be paid for with cash or credit. Its user-friendly services include tracking the cab’s location, wifi access and mobile charging during the ride. The minicab service fills the gap for commuters who need organised, safe and affordable micro transport within a three mile radius. This environmentally-friendly taxi service also eases traffic congestion in cities without causing pollution.

Samuel O. Otukol, Uganda: Water distillation system and process

This innovation proposes an alternative source of viable drinkable water in areas of water shortage or where only sea water is available. Salty water is evaporated at low temperatures (30 to 50 degrees Celsius) and then condensed into fresh water at lower costs than incurred using reverse osmosis. The proposed process can also use solar energy in remote areas. It helps water shortages in drought-stricken areas, or where existing desalination methods have proved ineffective.

Now in it’s fourth edition, the Innovation Prize for Africa has attracted some 3000 applications from 49 African countries. 

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