16 Of Africa’s Most Talented Engineers Vie For $32K Africa Innovation Prize

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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talented engineers
Sixteen talented engineers from Africa have been identified for their innovative capacity and could win a $32,000 prize to further their innovations. The 16 nominees for the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Image by Johann Botha

Sixteen talented African engineers have been shortlisted for the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation with products that include bicycles made of bamboo, anti-fraud facial recognition tech and antibacterial soap made from agricultural waste.

The winner walks away with $32,000, while three runners-up will be awarded around $12,800.

The shortlisted engineers are described as African tech pioneers by the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering.

Now in its sixth year, the Africa Prize equips talented engineers with tools and mentorship designed to turn their innovations into sustainable businesses.

Six of the 16 shortlisted engineers are female innovators, with a first-ever finalist from Malawi.

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Here are 16 talented African engineers who have been nominated for the Africa Innovation Prize for engineering.

Jack Oyugi, Kenya: Aquaprotein

Kenyan biotechnologist Jack Oyugi invented Aquaprotein, an affordable protein supplement for animal feed, made from invasive water hyacinth harvested from Lake Victoria. The water hyacinth is steam boiled, dried, crushed and fermented to make a protein-rich powder, which is then mixed with minerals and energy-rich materials like maize bran to make an affordable animal feed for poultry, dairy, and fish farmers, according to RaEng.


Charlette N’Guessan, Ghana: BACE API

Charlette N’Guessan is one of the Ghanaians to be recognized for her innovation. N’Guessan created BACE API, a system that uses live facial recognition technology to verify identities and prevent financial and online identity fraud, according to WomEng.


Catherine Tasankha Chaima, Malawi: Cathel

Catherine Tasankha Chaima of Malawi is the investor of Cathel, an affordable antibacterial soap made from agricultural waste and other plant-based extracts. Chemical engineer Chaima is the first-ever Malawian to make the shortlist. She grew up in rural Malawi to farming parents, and her familiarity with local ingredients allowed her to come up with the idea for the soap, according to Malawi24.

Richard Arwa, Kenya: CIST Ethanol Fuel

Kenyan Richard Arwa is the man behind CIST Ethanol Fuel, a clean cooking ethanol made from invasive water hyacinth. A chemist and high school teacher, Arwa began producing ethanol with two high school students for a science and engineering fair. He was encouraged to commercialize the product, scaling his production significantly from the single liter he was able to produce in a high school laboratory. Arwa is exploring ways of using the solid and gas byproducts created by the process to ensure that he runs a zero-waste operation.

Adrian Padt, South Africa: DryMac

South African mechanical engineer Adrian Padt has invented DryMac, a containerized drying system that uses burning biomass instead of electricity to dry and preserve crops. The drier is revolutionary because it is able to replace traditional methods of crop preservation like refrigeration and dehydration, both of which use large amounts of energy, according to RaEng.

Bernice Dappah, Ghana: EcoRide

Ghanaian Bernice Dapaah is the driving force behind EcoRide, a firm that employs Ghanaian women and youth to make bamboo bicycles made from sustainable materials and recycled parts. Marketing specialist Dapaah wanted to help her community and she was inspired to make the bicycles after seeing bamboo products online.

Timothy Kayondo, Uganda: Eco Water Purifier

Ugandan Timothy Kayondo, an industrial chemist graduate from Makerere University, noticed how quickly the chlorine in Kampala’s public water supply decayed in the space between the reservoirs and residents’ taps. This was his inspiration to create the Eco Water Purifier, a digital system that turns bones, cassava peelings, coconut shells and other waste into an activated carbon water filter, according to RaEng.

Aisha Raheem, Nigeria: Farmz2U

One of two engineers selected from Nigeria, Aisha Raheem is the innovator behind Farmz2U, a firm that provides tech solutions to help farmers and families prevent food waste and improve the nutritional quality of food in her community, according to AllAfrica. A strategy consultant, Raheem developed Farmz2U after a health scare prompted her to eat more healthily and made her realize the need to prevent food waste.

Victor Boyle-Komolafe, Nigeria: Garbage In Value Out

Nigerian accountant Victor Boyle-Komolafe was inspired to develop Garbage In Value Out (GIVO after attending a workshop on the waste problem in Nigeria. He learned that around 15 billion units of plastic enter Nigeria annually. Less than 10 percent of it is recycled. He decided to do his part to change that, according to Nextech. GIVO automates and digitizes the collection, processing and sale of recyclable materials.

Isaac Sesi, Ghana: GrainMate

GrainMate is Ghanaian Isaac Sesi’s answer to wasted food. Smallholder farmers lose grain and money due to incorrect moisture levels which can cause mold, attract insects, and reduce grain quality. GrainMate is a small handheld meter that measures the moisture content of grains so farmers can act to prevent rotting, insect infestation and reduced quality.

Josephine Godwyll, Ghana: Lab and Library on Wheels

One of the five Ghanaians who have dominated this year’s list of nominees, Josephine Godwyll came up with Lab and Library on Wheels, a mobile, solar-hybrid cart complete with e-learning resources designed to encourage reading and teach STEM subjects in under-resourced schools.

Dr. William Wasswa, Uganda: PapsAI

Uganda’s Dr. William Wasswa is the head of Mbarara University’s biomedical engineering department. He developed PapsAI — a digital microscope slide scanner — to quickly scan high-resolution cervical cell images from pap smears. The low-cost digital microscope slide scanner and platform is designed to diagnose and manage cervical cancer in resource-constrained areas, according to RaEng.


David Tusubira, Uganda: Remot

Developed by Ugandan David Tusubira and his team, the Remot digital platform monitors and manages the performance, usage, and health of solar photovoltaic panel installations. The system offers solar companies data about their customers’ energy use while examining the system for inefficiencies and potential problems, according to Ventureburn.

Samuel Rigu, Kenya: Safi Organics

Kenyan Samuel Rigu has been nominated for a novel innovation that turns crop waste into a range of affordable organic fertilizers. Rigu is an agribusiness specialist. His company, Safi Organics, adds cassava peels and rice husks to a liquid nutrient mix that is developed locally. The product is made from Kenyan ingredients and imported algae.


Justine Abuga, Kenya: Solar Jiko

Kenyan renewable energy engineer Justine Abuga put his expertise to good use developing Solar Jiko, a heat storage system that allows students at rural schools to cook food quickly and easily without the need for firewood. Abuga has already secured contracts to install Solar Jiko at 27 Kenyan schools. His invention is expected to cut their cooking costs by $10,000 per year.


Tracy Kimathi, Kenya: Tree_Sea.mals Mini-Grid

Tracy Kimathi, one of the six women and the only woman from Kenya on the shortlist, created a solar energy system that powers communal refrigeration storage spaces in rural Kenya. The product is called Tree_Sea.mals Mini-Grid, according to Kenyans.