The Duke of York’s initiative helps young engineers from Africa bring their ideas to life
IN AN exclusive interview with The Voice, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York has hailed the role that young African engineers can play in creating solutions to social and economic problems on the continent and the world.
The Prince was speaking at Pitch@Palace Africa, a special collaboration between Pitch@ Palace, an initiative he founded in 2014 as a platform to support engineering entrepreneurs and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.
The Prince said ambitious and talented people were consistently producing ideas that could change the way people live and spoke of his determination to support them.
He told The Voice: “The future [of Africa] lies with young people who are determined to change the way we have done things in the past.
“My generation have had a go at trying to get it right. We may have or may not have succeeded. But what I’m doing now [through Pitch@Palace Africa] is giving opportunities to the next generation to get it right or to get it more right than we did.”
Pitch@Palace Africa saw a total of 15 talented entrepreneurs from a range of countries in the continent and with a background in engineering pitch business ideas that tackled pressing problems to a room of potential investors and business leaders.
The winning pitch was from Shafik Sekitto who founded Uganda-based start-up Matibabu, a non-invasive diagnostic kit used to detect malaria. Sekitto created the device that can test for malaria without drawing blood.
According to 2016 statistics an estimated 91 per cent of deaths from malaria worldwide were in Africa, where young children and pregnant women are the groups most affected.
Sekitto’s device provides a safe way to test for the disease through a low-cost, reusable device that clips onto a patient’s finger and uses light to detect changes in the shape, colour and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria.
Among the other shortlisted pitches were Charles Ofori from Ghana who created Science Set, a mini science lab containing all the materials needed to carry out experiments in the school syllabus and Nnaemeka Chidiebere Ikegwuono from Nigeria who created ColdHubs, a solar-powered walk-in cold room that extends the shelf life of perishable food tenfold.
The winners received offers of investment and mentoring from members of the audience who were there to help grow and scale their businesses and reach more markets.
Prince Andrew said: “We’re working from a position of knowledge. However, we’ve got to impart that knowledge to the next generation in order for them to make better decisions.”
Previous winners have included Tanzanian engineer Dr Askwar Hilonga who created a device to bring clean water to millions across Africa and Brian Turyabagye, an engineer and entrepreneur from Uganda, who invented Mama-Ope, a biomedical smart jacket that helps doctors identify pneumonia faster and more accurately.
Since its inception in 2014 the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has helped 56 engineers from 11 African to apply their skills to tackling key The Voice he agreed with Prince Andrew that Africa’s engineers could make a difference to the the world.
He said: “Pitch@Palace Africa is full of go-getters, people who are enthusiastic, innovative and smart. So I wholly believe that we can change people’s lives for the better.”
Written by Vic Motune
-The Voice, UK