Meet the 2021 African Prize for Engineering Finalists

The Royal Academy of Engineering has released the finalists for the 2021 African prie for Engineering. Below ar the finalists drawn across African countries.

Jacob Azundah, founder of Aevhas (Nigeria)

Aevhas is a high-efficiency garri processing machine, used to process the tuberous roots of the cassava plant into garri – a powdery flour and diet staple across West Africa.

The onerous process of producing garri includes peeling the cassava root, washing, grading, pressing it for starch, removing the water, sieving and frying. Aevhas sieves and fries more cassava root, faster than traditional methods. The technology offers two heating modes – charcoal and wood fire, or gas – depending on the resources of the customer. The Aevhas processing machine can also sieve and fry either simultaneously, or at separate intervals.

Processing cassava roots is laborious and time-consuming; conventional garri processing machines can take up to four hours to sieve and fry, only producing a single basin of garri. This discourages many from going into cassava farming, while most current cassava farmers remain committed to the manual processing method.

This led mechanical engineer Jacob Azundah to design Aevhas, created to sieve and fry the cassava tubes in 20 minutes, significantly reducing barriers to profitability in the sector.

A motor drives an input shaft connected to a set of sprockets and chains. The sieving unit sieves the garri using a pulveriser, breaking it down into small particles which are collected into a sieving chamber where they are separated from the chaff. A worker then engages the fryer, placing the now caked cassava into a carrier with curved blades. This carrier rotates about an axis, tossing the garri until it is ready for discharge. Aevhas is suitable for both community-based businesses and industrial use.

“Many will be encouraged to return to farming because of the simplicity in processing garri, and as a result we can greatly reduce levels of poverty and hunger. We hope that an increase in the number of cassava farmers will bring about food security in Nigeria.” Jacob Azundah, Aevhas

Armelle Sidje , Biopackaging (Cameroon) 

Biopackaging transforms banana and plantain stems into biodegradable paper packaging products, reducing both deforestation and plastic waste. Agricultural entrepreneur Armelle Sidje believes zero waste can be the new normal in Cameroon, where her shopping bags, cardboard and rolls of paper replace wood-based paper and plastic packaging.

Despite historically being the world leader in plantain production, Cameroon has already seen a loss of 200,000 hectares of vegetation due to deforestation for plastic-accumulating landfills. Roughly 4.3 million tonnes of plantain fruit is produced in Cameroon each year, and twice as much as this is discarded as waste by farmers. Sidje and her team collect plantain stems from this valuable biomass waste to produce a biodegradable alternative to paper and plastic packaging.

The process involves unsheathing the plantain and banana stems, extracting the fibres, and boiling to remove lignite. A paper pulp made from the cellulose that remains is then dried in the sun, from which Biopackaging is made, fit for purpose for retail applications.

Sidje and her team have grown their business considerably over the last year, increasing production from two bags a week in 2019 to 50 bags each day in 2020. Their goal for 2021 is to increase production to 500 bags per day. To expand Sidje’s zero waste vision across the continent, they are also developing an online platform to connect eco-friendly packaging customers with sellers across sub-Saharan Africa. Sidje also hopes to create jobs for rural women and young people as her business grows.

“Cameroon has such an abundance of plantain by-products, it was an obvious solution for us. Biopackaging is stronger, more sustainable, and will soon be more affordable than traditional paper and plastic. It’s a win-win for businesses and the environment, and we hope it inspires more innovations like it.” Armelle Sidje, Biopackaging

Indira Tsengiwe, BlueAvo (South Africa)
BlueAvo is a digital platform which connects brands in the media industry with local content creators for their marketing needs, and functions as a digital workspace. BlueAvo creates open, unbiased opportunities for creatives, reducing inequality in the media industry.

The platform provides a web-based application that enables recruiters to upload open briefs, and content creators to respond to them. Upon appointment, the platform provides a workspace management solution allowing production teams to collaborate digitally across Africa. It also accounts for risk management, legal and intellectual property protection, and provides a payment gateway.

While freelance marketplaces exist in the global economy, none are tailormade for the African continent. BlueAvo’s production workspace, its vast creative network and payment gateway facilitate cross-border trade on the continent. These three elements empower brands, entrepreneurs and agencies to scale up across Africa through access to localised teams in markets large and small.

Entrepreneur Indira Tsengiwe and her cofounders built the solution in response to the need for innovation in the African media industry. The team identified that content development opportunities in the South African advertising and television industries were reserved for a select few, often because large agencies dominate the industry. This aggravates inequalities, preventing opportunities for youths, small businesses and emerging markets across the continent.

BlueAvo addresses the issues of free trade both nationally and across African borders, as well as access to information. The technology creates a democratised landscape for creative work, with financial integrations allowing money to move easily across borders. The company has signed up thousands of creatives in seven African countries. The team hopes to expand their network to 10,000 creatives in 2021.

“BlueAvo is an innovative solution aiming to revive the media industry in Africa, by creating open and unbiased opportunities for creatives, based on talent. Businesses can only benefit from access to a greater talent pool.” – Indira Tsengiwe, BlueAvo

Elohor Thomas, CodeLn (Nigeria)
CodeLn is an automated tech recruitment platform that helps companies looking to hire people in the software engineering field. It is also an accessible learning tool, allowing novices and professional programmers alike to improve their coding skills, with special functions for those with additional needs, such as visually impaired and neurodiverse coders.

The web-based platform streamlines the recruitment process from three months to two weeks, allowing companies to source, screen, and interview potential candidates. A recruiter can post a job specification, immediately get matched with suitable candidates via CodeLn’s recommendation system, test the coding skills of the candidate and present them with an offer letter – all through one platform.

The artificial intelligence system can be integrated into existing apps and systems. Users can grow their skills through the platform’s Learning Assistant feature built on Google Assistant. Coders can expand their portfolios using CodeLn’s project-based skills assessments and qualify for their dream jobs. Job applicants will take a workplace sample test similar to what they will be employed to build. The test is monitored for cheating, and the product is graded according to programming and language framework best practices.

Systems engineer Elohor Thomas and her cofounders met during training at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, where they shared their frustrations on the time-consuming recruitment process for software engineers. CodeLn is their solution.

“CodeLn is connecting African programmers to local and global job opportunities and providing them with the resources to grow in their careers. With over 100 million new tech jobs projected globally by 2025, we are preparing African youths and software engineers for new and exciting opportunities.” Elohor Thomas, CodeLn

Tshepo Mangoele, Dissolv Bioplastic (South Africa)
Dissolv Bioplastic is a novel bioplastic made using plant waste material and is dissolvable in water, compostable and biodegrades at accelerated rates.

The biodegrading process of currently available bioplastics can take from three to six months, while Dissolv Bioplastic biodegrades in roughly 61 days. It is designed to dissolve in water within 36 to 72 hours depending on the product – straws, cutlery, or packaging. It is also compostable, capable of being broken down into its natural elements without becoming toxic like its synthetic counterparts. This process does not require specialised conditions, and the result is a product similar to petrochemically-derived plastics, which can be used in the manufacturing processes of numerous industries, including electronics, cosmetics and textiles.

Chemical engineer Tshepo Mangoele developed Dissolv Bioplastic after two years of experimenting with waste biomass to manufacture different products.

The African continent is no different from the rest of the world when it comes to the environmental threat posed by plastics. Globally, roughly 50% of single-use plastics end up in the oceans. Landfills are continuously expanding with plastic waste products that do not biodegrade. There are comparatively few African commercial composting facilities, and fewer companies developing affordable bioplastic products. Mangoele says the result is recycling on a small scale, with around 8% of all plastics produced being recycled. Dissolv Bioplastic seeks to solve this problem with a product that is price competitive with conventional plastics and will help eliminate land and sea pollution.

Though the product is at pilot phase, one of Africa’s largest packaging distributors has already approached Dissolv Bioplastic to distribute their product across the continent.

Dissolv Bioplastic is nearing the end of its R&D phase and will now be reformulated to suit applications in the electronics, cosmetics, and medical device industries. Pilot projects to produce cutlery, films and straws are being launched at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa this year, where the bioplastic is being developed.

“Through our potential merchant wholesaler, the distribution of our product will be done throughout most of the continent. We are also looking at selling the bioplastic pellets to companies using conventional plastics to make other products, thus increasing our product scope.” -Tshepo Mangoele, Dissolv Bioplastic

Marie Ndieguene, Senegal, 13S
I3S is an ecologically friendly and affordable storage space solution designed to solve the problem of post-harvest loss in agriculture. The storage unit is constructed from recycled tyres and plastics and natural materials.

The storage unit preserves agricultural products for longer periods of time than traditional storage. Using zero energy, potatoes can be stored for up to three months and onions up to six months, using the principle of thermic conservation. Traditional storage methods currently store potatoes for up to two weeks and onions for up to three.

I3S uses tyres for the walls of the storage unit, linked by sticks and plastic bottles for stability. Plastic bags are used for isolation and the unit is then covered in a red soil called laterite. This functions as the thermic envelope; thermic exchange between this envelope and the exterior wall ensures a cool temperature within the unit.

Civil engineer Marie Ndieguene developed I3S to bring appropriate and affordable storage solutions to farmers. Ndieguene and her team carried out a study among farmers in Deni Biram Ndao, Kayar, Mboro and Malem Hodar in Senegal, and found that for 95% of farmers, adequate storage is a major challenge. As storage units are unaffordable, farmers either sell crops quickly at lower prices, or suffer losses when crops are spoiled.

Three years after the study, Ndieguene and her team built two storage spaces in two communities, preserving 245.34 tonnes of potatoes and onions and impacting the lives of 2,300 families. The team has recycled more than 20,000 tires, 20,000 plastic bags and 30,000 bottles, showing that I3S can turn waste pollution into a food security solution.

“The development of this new construction technique will revolutionise the agricultural world. It is also a solution to the ecological disaster we face with massive landfills. We are working with the community to tackle pollution and food insecurity, solving two problems with one innovation.” -Marie Ndieguene, I3S

Jumeni Eyram Amedzor, Ghana, Jumeni Field Service Software

Eyram AmedzorJumeni Field Service Software assists service-based businesses by providing a three-part cloud-based application to help increase the productivity of their field teams, engage customers and collect payments seamlessly.

The field service software is divided into three applications. The back office web app helps the Jumeni team assign job orders to field workers, track their progress and gain insights into general field performance. An agent app is used by the mobile workforce to update the team on assigned job orders, navigate between sites, and write reports. A customer app is used to help businesses engage their customers and collect payments efficiently. USSD-based versions of the agent and customer apps make it accessible for users without the internet or smartphones.

Computer scientist Eyram Amedzor and his team developed the Jumeni software in 2018 after their research revealed waste management companies in Ghana face serious service delivery challenges. This includes a loss of up to 40% of monthly revenue because of oversights and leakages in managing field-based operations. The loss was similar across other field service industries.

Jumeni has successfully launched a product in the waste management industry, and is launching a delivery platform in 2021. The delivery platform is designed to support growing businesses and e-commerce ventures, whose business growth is often negatively affected by the unavailability of courier services. A customer will log onto the platform and request a delivery. They will be given immediate data, such as price estimates and timing. A unique tracking number allows customers to monitor the delivery live.

Couriers can become agents for Jumeni with access to their delivery management software. This subscription service allows agents to manage orders directly. Jumeni has completed over 500 deliveries to 100 customers using ten couriers and is aiming to complete 50,000 in 2021. It hopes to appoint 200 couriers this year.

Having now completed and launched their waste management product, Jumeni is currently finalising its delivery product for launch this year and is looking to expand into other field service industries as the business grows.

The team aims to impact over 50,000 service-based companies in Africa in the next three to five years. Future product development includes developing an Application Programming Interface, a software intermediary allowing other applications to interface. This will allow e-commerce businesses, and other delivery-based businesses, to offer deliveries without having to contract external service providers.

“Waste management is a field that requires end-to-end monitoring, and Jumeni brings more visibility into field operations, increases field workers’ efficiency, and improves customer services and productivity in companies.” – Eyram Amedzor, Ghana

Noël N’guessan, Côte d’Ivoire, KubeKo
Kubeko is a set of low-cost biowaste processing equipment designed for smallholder farmers in West Africa to efficiently manage and generate income from biowaste, a by-product of agricultural production and processing.

Kubeko equipment is prefabricated for easy on-site assembly and is produced in two forms – a composter and a biodigester – producing solid and liquid compost and cooking gas. Current processing technologies are either thermal, mechanical, or biological. The latter process involves breaking waste down through fermentation, typically requiring concrete fixed dome digesters, which are neither mobile nor designed to digest matter other than manure.

The Kubeko composter and biodigester are both specifically designed to ferment agricultural post-harvest by-products. Biowaste represents two to five times the quantity of crops or produce sold, amounting to 30 million tonnes of waste disposed of annually in Côte d’Ivoire. Chemical engineer Noël N’guessan believes that by using this waste, Kubeko can help Ivorians generate extra income, dramatically improving the lives of thousands of farmers and their families.

The composter is fed and aerated daily for 15 days. The equipment’s aeration can be configured to run on an energy grid or on solar power. Roughly 400 kg of organic waste produces 150 kg of compost each month.

The biodigester transforms green waste, liquid and solid, into cooking gas and liquid compost. Approximately 5 kg of daily solid waste provides two hours’ worth of cooking gas, and 50 litres of liquid compost.

N’guessan and his team designed and patented Kubeko to assist smallholder farmers and their cooperatives to generate more income from the by-products of their harvests, without any additional labour. Kubeko provides an option to directly transform biowaste into compost and cooking gas through the fermentation process, creating a value-added product for those trapped in the cycle of poverty. Farmers can also use their own compost, improving the quality of their own produce.

Fifty composters have been installed to date in cocoa, palm oil and mango farms. Two biodigesters are currently running on cassava farms on a trial basis.

Soil testing is offered as a complementary service to help maximise the impact of the compost on soil fertility.

“Within the next five years, we aim to reach 10% of the 2 million smallholder farmers in Côte d’Ivoire that are facing decreasing yields and stronger market demand for sustainably produced crops.”- Noel N’guessan, Kubeko

Juka Fatou Darboe, The Gambia, Make3D Medical
Make3D Medical uses 3D printing to develop and manufacture cost-effective and customised orthopaedic, medical and assistive equipment for medical institutions and their patients.

The company offers both final products and capacity-building packages. It designs and produces devices to treat fractures, such as braces, splints, connectors and spare parts for medical devices. Packages include Make3D Medical hardware and software, training for staff, raw materials, access to a central database of verified 3D designs, design on demand and maintenance. Using the package, medical professionals can develop their own products.

Make3D Medical is the only custom 3D printing medical solution of its kind in The Gambia, using easy to operate technology and medically compliant materials to provide cost-effective and efficient solutions.

Mechanical and electronics engineer Fatou Juka Darboe and her cofounder met in The Gambia two years ago, and their interest in technology and 3D printing brought them together to form Make3D Company Limited, out of which Make3D Medical was born.

Before going into business, Darboe had one 3D printer, and had been invited by Robotics Hub GM Education to give lessons on its functionalities. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, Darboe and her cofounder signed a contract with the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to develop medical devices capable of being manufactured with a 3D printer.

Make3D Medical has identified areas where its devices can be used as an alternative to surgery, and where they can be used to modify existing devices to make them more culturally acceptable, more physician and patient-friendly, and better suited to local climates than Plaster of Paris.

In 2020, Make3D Medical developed more than 20 3D printable devices in cooperation with various partners, included inhaler spacers, humeral braces and Y-connectors. To date, more than 1,000 elements have been manufactured for the medical industry in The Gambia.

“The practice of surgery in resource-limited settings is particularly challenging. We have identified areas where our devices can be used as an alternative to surgery, offering a huge cost saving to patients.”- Juka Darboe, Make3D Medical

Atish Shah, Tanzania, ., Mkono-1
Mkono-1 is a locally developed, 3D-printed functional prosthetic hand that gives Tanzanian amputees an affordable solution for improved mobility and independence.

Charged by a simple mobile phone battery, Mkono-1 was developed by medical doctor Atish Shah and his cofounders to empower people with upper limb amputations. Shah is also a biomedical engineering masters candidate.

In Tanzania, prosthetics are unaffordable for those in middle and low-income communities, and no other battery-powered prosthetics are being developed in the region. Across Africa, as little as 17% of people with amputations can afford prosthetics or rehabilitative devices.

Mkono-1 is the first locally designed and manufactured myoelectric hand in Tanzania. The technology amplifies the electrical impulses of the amputated limb’s muscle tissue, and these signals are processed to allow the user to move the hand.

Shah and his team at RoverLabs are passionate about helping amputees regain access to economic opportunities, as well as the confidence and independence that come with improved mobility.

Mkono-1 is manufactured using high performance servomotors to mimic the movement of each finger, and multifilament braided high-tension strings to function as tendons. The microcontroller is the heart of the circuit. Mkono-1 is battery powered and can be recharged with a mobile phone charger. It requires minimal maintenance, and spare parts are readily available.

The RoverLabs team have tested three prototypes and continue to improve their design. Current development includes incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, which will improve response time, giving users quicker reflexes. They are also looking to expand their market in East Africa and move into Central Africa, where up to 96 of every 1,000 people has an amputated limb.

“We found that the communities most likely to suffer major injuries like amputations are often those who can least afford prosthetics. Mkono-1 is our first step in providing more affordable options to people with mobility challenges, and we hope it will significantly change our customers’ lives.” -Dr Atish Shah, Mkono-1

Pazion Cherinet, Ethiopia, Orbit Health
Orbit Health is a digital health platform which manages and stores patient data, including appointments, diagnoses, tests, doctors’ notes and prescriptions.

By providing healthcare facilities with constantly updated, always available virtual copies of patient data, Orbit Health enhances the continuity of care provided to patients. Systems are customised to the needs of each healthcare provider, in contrast to generic systems that don’t cater for the nuances of different health services.

Systems engineer Pazion Cherinet recalls waiting for hours with a family member at a clinic in Ethiopia and noticing the lack of adequate healthcare documentation. Cherinet realised that others in his community could be spared this experience by simply developing a centralised database of all patient files.

The fully interoperable platform combines different workflows, including wards, operating rooms, laboratory and imaging tests, and dispensaries, into a single report. This means that the loss of patient records is completely avoided.

The patient’s digital record contains medical data collected during different visits and includes patient demographics, medical history, allergy information, vitals, medication, medical notes, treatment plans, and follow-ups. It also notifies healthcare facilities regarding medication stocks and expiry dates, limiting waste.

In the last four years, Orbit Health has managed more than 300,000 active patients, digitised 270,000 patients’ data, scheduled 80,000 appointments, identified 70,000 diagnoses, recorded 130,000 digital notes, managed 40,000 lab and imaging orders, and dispensed more than three million units of medication through the digital health platform.

“We are currently consulting with the Ethiopian government on Covid-19 lab and non-lab data management, making more than 160,000 surveillance and 80,000 lab test data sets readily available. Our platform has been deployed in six healthcare facilities in Addis Ababa to date.”= Pazion Cherinet, Orbit Health

Olugbenga Olufemi Olubanjo, Nigeria, Reeddi
Reeddi is an energy system used to provide clean, reliable and affordable electricity to households and businesses operating in the energy-poor communities of sub-Saharan Africa.

Following personal experience of countless blackouts and brownouts, control systems engineer Olugbenga Olubanjo developed the ’always ready’ Reeddi capsule system. Reeddi provides power to communities and businesses without electricity, at an affordable price. Its portable nature gives users to access electricity anywhere they go.

Reeddi capsules contain lithium-ion cells, improved by a proprietary battery optimisation algorithm to extend the lifespan of the capsule from two to four years, an increase from 500 to more than 1,200 charge cycles.

The energy system is divided into three parts: the brick-sized energy capsule, which stores electricity provided to users; energy crates, which are used to store the energy capsules when distributing or collecting them for recharging; and the recharging station. Reeddi capsules have a built-in wireless data transfer feature, which saves information related to energy usage, device location, battery levels, device analytics and general customer information. Energy usage data is used to optimise local operations and understand customers’ energy requirements.

Reeddi customers save up to 30% on their usual energy expenses with access to power anywhere, anytime. Reeddi currently recharges the capsules at a central location but intends to erect solar-powered energy charging stations in communities, allowing customers to recharge capsules themselves.

Reeddi currently serves more than 600 households and businesses each month, aiming to increase to 10,000 monthly customers across Nigeria in 2021.

“Reeddi’s novel solution relieves users of the mobility, cost, payment and flexibility constraints of other energy-generating options. When you need a reliable electricity supply, we are ‘always ready’ with Reeddi.”- Olugbenga Olufemi Olubanjo, Reeddi

Taofeek Olalekan, Nigeria- RealDrip
RealDrip is a medical device that simplifies essential intravenous therapy, used especially for pregnant women during drip and blood transfusions.

In the US and other high-income countries, typical infusion pumps cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, and are not easily available. RealDrip improves access to precise and smart infusion at a 96% price reduction, with the units currently under development priced at $200.

Created by electronics engineer Taofeek Olalekan, the device is specifically aimed at maternal care units, to administer precise infusions to pregnant women during drip and blood transfusion treatments.

Olalekan hopes that RealDrip will not only improve access to infusion procedures, but also free up essential medical professionals who work in ICUs, where infusion pumps are typically used.

Where traditional infusion pumps require constant manual input and attention, RealDrip updates healthcare professionals remotely via web services and alerts. Using artificial intelligence to monitor dosages, flow rates and intake time, healthcare professionals no longer need to monitor patients’ infusions manually. The system also stores each patient’s medical status, allowing medical practitioners to quickly calculate correct infusion drip rates.

Current processes also require constant retraining on the traditional and complex infusion procedures, but unlike existing clinical tools, RealDrip is very simple to use.

The device operates via a dual-core chip with in-built Wi-Fi, allowing for two-way communication (M2M). Consisting of biosensors which measure and track the intravenous fluid, RealDrip uses edge computing to reduce latency and ensure timely responses from the RealDrip for measurement, analytics and data transmission to the cloud. An Anomaly Detection Algorithm improves efficiency, and an Automatic Reasoning Algorithm predicts, adjusts and maintains flow rate.

Following a successful clinical trial in Nigeria and regulatory approval, Olalekan and his team are now in the final design phase before manufacturing units for 27 hospitals that have pre-ordered RealDrip.

“We have positioned the product to potentially save the lives of 76,000 pregnant women and 500,000 babies every year. We are using the Internet of Things to shift healthcare from curing sickness to enabling wellness.” – Taofeek Olalekan, RealDrip

Yusuf Bilesanmi, Nigeria, ShiVent
ShiVent is a low-cost, non-electric and non-invasive ventilator for patients with respiratory difficulties, available at a fraction of the cost of mechanical ventilators. Its simple design enables it to be operated by unspecialised healthcare workers.

The high price and shortage of mechanical ventilator systems in Africa have contributed to the deaths of thousands of patients. ShiVent is designed for under-resourced clinics with unreliable electricity supply and limited access to specialist knowledge.

Energy infrastructure engineer Yusuf Bilesanmi and his team developed ShiVent in response to the strain placed on healthcare systems during the Covid-19 pandemic. Using the principles of Bubble CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), the ShiVent blends air with a high-flow oxygen supply using a specifically designed Venturis air blender and delivers this to a patient still able to breathe by themselves. This is critical to the survival of patients experiencing respiratory distress.

The device only requires 150 to 200 cylinders of oxygen a day, at a rate of 5 to 12 litres of oxygen per minute (lpm). The Lagos State government currently uses 400 cylinders of oxygen a day, at 15 lpm.

With a global surge in Covid-19 cases, many countries’ healthcare systems lack the capacity to tackle this new challenge. Nigeria has as few as 288 mechanical ventilators serving almost 200 million people. The ShiVent is a simple, low cost ventilatory alternative which does not depend on electricity and is widely replicable.

ShiVent has completed functionality testing at the National Centre for Sports and Exercise and Medicine at Loughborough University and Leicester Royal Infirmary Hospital. It has also undergone preliminary clinical feasibility tests at NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, Glenfield Hospital, renowned for coronary and respiratory diseases. The results demonstrate that the device is indeed functional and meets CPAP requirements set by the Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom.

“In designing our solution, we noted the requirements and guidance of the NHS and MHRA (Medicines and Health Regulations Authority) in the UK on the standards required for a medically-compliant ventilator. After 10 weeks of development and testing, we are proud to introduce what we call the ShiVent, a Bubble Continuous Positive Air Pressure device.”- Yusuf Bilesanmi, ShiVent

Faith Adesemowo, Nigeria, Social Lender
Social Lender is a digital service that provides immediate access to formal financial services to those with little to no previous access.

Social Lender partners with service providers like banks, microfinance institutions, micro-insurance companies and agricultural input companies to offer facilities based on Social Reputation Scores. In ten minutes, t’s proprietary algorithm can perform a social audit of users based on their mobile, social media and other online activity. This digital fingerprint allows them to access credit, microinsurance organisations, farm inputs and other services. Members of their network are also able to act as social guarantors or referees for their activities.

Users can access Social Lender’s platform through the internet, SMS, USSD, mobile apps, APIs or partner bank ATMs. Social Lender ambassadors visit communities that do not have smartphones and help them access the platform.

More than 50% of Africans lack access to formal financial services. Most of these people are farmers, traders, artisans, young professionals, small business owners and students. Finance specialist Faith Adesemowo saw a need to address this challenge. Five years on from developing Social Lender, the platform has impacted the lives of more than 100,000 customers in Nigeria and South Africa.

“We aim to reach one million users in Nigeria in the next 12 months and help them gain access to financial services using the Social Reputation Score. They will also receive services such as financial literacy training, agricultural extension best practices trainings, and biometric registration for onboarding to Social Lender.”- Faith Adesemowo, Social Lender

George Boateng, Ghana, is a smartphone app which uses artificial intelligence to teach coding remotely.

The software includes course materials in English and French, quizzes and coding assignments, an automated grading system and an artificial intelligence teaching assistant called Kwame, after Ghana’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The app hosts monthly online coding courses for individuals and is also offered to schools and organisations who wish to enrol their students or employees in their own ‘SuaCode Classroom’.

In 2018, after five years running a non-profit organisation which offered a three-week innovation bootcamp, computer scientist and engineer George Boateng realised that only 25% of his students had access to laptops, while 100% owned smartphones. Boateng and his team modified the coding course and reintroduced it using smartphones. Boateng’s students were able to develop complex applications and he saw an opportunity to upscale the bootcamp into a learning tool to reach aspiring coders across the continent.

Statistics show that fewer than 1% of African children leave school with basic coding skills, which is why many African government institutions and private companies are struggling to fill IT-related positions, despite the continent being home to the largest and youngest workforce in the world. undertook four pilot studies between 2018 and 2020, receiving more than 3,000 applications for its introductory course from 69 countries across five continents, with 42 of them in Africa. As the company continues to grow, their goal is to enrol more than 10,000 students per month across all 54 African countries in 2021.’s courses are structured in a cohort-based format, meeting the students’ needs for support and interaction. Their course completion rate is 76%, compared to the industry standard of 10%.

“ aims to increase the coding completion rate, while also creating job opportunities. Our target market is the 28.6 million smartphone-owning students in Africa, but the courses are open to everyone who wants to broaden their software development abilities.”-George Boateng,

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