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    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prize


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    The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to developing African innovators and helping them to maximise their impact. It gives commercialisation support to ambitious African innovators developing scalable engineering solutions to address local challenges, demonstrating the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development.

    This year, the judges are:

    1. Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng (Chair of judges), Past President of the Energy Institute, Chair of EngineeringUK
    2. Dr Ibilola Amao, Founder and Principal Consultant, Lonadek Global Services
    3. Alessandra Buonfino, Senior Adviser, Global Innovation Fund
    4. Rebecca Enonchong FREng, Founder and CEO, AppsTech
    5. Dr John Lazar CBE FREng, Chair, Enza Capital, What3Words and Raspberry Pi Foundation

    More information can be found here: www.raeng.org.uk/africaprize

    Below are the profiles of all the finanlistst for the 2023 Editi

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    Cletus Ekpoh, Nigeria, Waste-to-Wealth Enhancer

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeWaste-to-Wealth Enhancer (WWE) is a four-part recycling system created to address illegal dumping of rubbish, unregulated landfills and open burning of plastic. It aims to reduce pollution, contamination and environmental degradation. The system was created by Nigerian polymer engineer Cletus Ekpoh, who makes his compact and portable recycling machines from locally sourced metals.

    The first unit, an agglomerating machine, uses self-generated heat to convert polythene plastic, such as discarded water sachets, into a solid form before cooling the mass with water and cutting it into pellets with rotating blades in a vertical drum. This prevents the polythene going to landfill or oceans, and the pellets can be upcycled to make new plastic film, nylon agricultural bags and many other recycled products.

    The second component is a crushing machine for solid plastic waste such as buckets, chairs, battery casings, kegs and bottles. It has a horizontal drum or crushing chamber with blades that break hard plastics into 2-8mm flakes that drop through holes in the bottom of the cylinder. The flakes are then used to make new plastic products including paint buckets, interlocking moulds, and clothes hangers.

    The third unit is an extrusion machine that makes tubular plastic film from the pellets produced in the first unit. The material is poured into a barrel containing an extrusion screw shaft, heated to a molten form and then blown into a thin film by an air compressor. The film is passed through rollers which compress it into a 2-ply sheet of polythene for cutting into shopping bags and agricultural bags, such as those used to carry compost.

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    The fourth element of the Waste-to-Wealth Enhancer is a manual compressor which crushes an aluminium can to 10% of its original size, making it easier to store and transport the waste for casting of ingots, moulds, clamps, and more.

    The four portable machines are designed for use at dump sites by waste pickers who can efficiently process waste into valuable recycled material for secondary production in the circular economy.

    Website: http://www.cptasac.com/

    Chukwuemeka Eze, Nigeria, Electric Mobility

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    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeElectric Mobility is an e-mobility service which converts gas-powered three-wheel motorbikes to run on batteries. Drivers using the electric motorbikes can save up to 60% in costs on gas or petrol.

    Nigerian electrical engineer Chukwuemeka Eze developed the Electric Mobility retrofit kit which includes lithium-ion batteries, an AC induction motor, a retrofit shaft and an electronic controller, that acts as the inverter.

    Eze and his team study the engines of different motorbikes and then develop specifications to adjust the gears and replace part of the engine with an electric motor. Redundant parts are removed, the battery is fixed to the bike’s chassis and the vehicle is repainted.

    The new battery connects to the motor through the controller, which interfaces through a sensor to the hand throttle to determine how fast to run the motor. The motor connects to the wheels through a differential gear reduction transmission. A direct current converter adapts the battery voltage to power the vehicle’s auxiliary systems.

    Two other sensors monitor the vehicle’s GPS system, as well as the battery’s state of charge and voltage. These are monitored through an Internet of Things interface. The controller, direct current converter, battery pack and electric motor are manufactured by Eze and his team. Sensors monitor the vehicle’s battery life, engine performance, motor temperature and maintenance requirements, which are then displayed on the vehicle’s dashboard.

    The batteries can be recharged using any 13A or 15A wall socket, and run for up to eight hours on a single charge for an average load of 320 kilograms. A vehicle-to-home integration can provide power to charge devices in off-grid homes or during power failures, essentially functioning as a mobile electric generator.

    Electric Mobility is offered for sale, as well as for sale through hire purchase due to the high price of electric motors. The retrofitting process replaces the gear lever with a switch allowing for forward and backward movement, contributing to a reduction in noise pollution and providing a smoother driving experience. Eze hopes to improve Electric Mobility by encasing their systems in watertight plastic to seal the electronics from high humidity and rain.

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GEORGIO.C.BUSH

    Tolulope Olukokun, Nigeria, ThinkBikes CoolMAX

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeThinkBikes CoolMAX is an electric cargo bike with a fridge to help Nigeria’s smallholder farmers get fresh food crops to market. This helps solve the challenge of fresh produce rotting in hot weather when transported in wet sacks or on open roofs and trailers. Nigerian mechatronics engineer, Tolulope Olukokun, developed the three-wheel vehicle and cooling unit to be powered by separate removable packs of recycled lithium-ion batteries taken from old laptop computers for a second life usage.

    The bike also has pedals that are in-sync with the electric motor with a pedal assist system to enable the rider to travel further with far less effort. The bike has a patented energy recuperation system that adds up to 5% of energy back into the traction batteries like regenerative braking systems work in electric vehicles.

    The ThinkBikes CoolMAX has a one metre by one metre 2,000 litre fridge, which can operate for an hour from full charge and has a cooling range of -6 ºC to 30 ºC. The electric bike has a top speed of 40 kilometres per hour and a range of 30 to 50 kilometres, depending on the weight of the cargo.

    The chassis of the rear-wheel-drive bike is manufactured by Olukokun and his team, who later add the electric motor and controller. ThinkBikes CoolMAX comes with a wall charger, and Olukokun is working on solar recharging stations. He aims to improve the torque of the vehicle for increased loads and a range of 100 kilometres.

    Olukokun and his team are able to produce five units per day, and are working to fulfil 1,200 orders by the end of 2023. They hope to extend their market into nine other African countries. His innovation is available for hire or purchase.

    Website: http://www.thinkbikes.com.ng/

    Obed Zar, Ghana, Aquaset

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeAquaset is a smart water management system that prevents waste and enables consumers to manage their consumption. Ghana’s cities have irregular water supply and frequent power failures. Many households supplement their municipal water provision using boreholes, with underground water pumped into a storage tank. But groundwater sources often dry up when tanks are filled faster than they can be replenished.

    Electric pumps are typically used to fill a tank once a week. But after a power failure, and when the pump turns back on, consumers may not notice when the tank is full. The overflow wastes water, and when the underground water dries up or the water level drops below the pump, it gets damaged by sucking up air.

    The Aquaset innovation by Ghanaian product designer Obed Zar updates households about the performance of their borehole and their water tank levels. It has a probe with a sensor that transmits data from the borehole to a control unit. More sensors measure the minimum and maximum water levels in the tank, which typically holds between 3,500 and 5,000 litres.

    When the water drops below a minimum level in the water tank, the Aquaset sensors trigger the control unit to turn on the pump, but only if the borehole probe confirms that there is sufficient underground water.

    Coloured LED lights show the water levels of the groundwater and the tank, and the control unit enables users to ensure sustainable water withdrawal and track monthly water consumption.

    Zar hopes to develop a mobile app which will store this information. His team are aiming to develop sensors to test and monitor water quality. Aquaset has been installed in 25 homes to date and has certification from the Ghana Standards Authority. Zar aims to install 5,000 more units in the next year. Website: https://infitechlab.com/

    Edmund Wessels, South Africa, FlexiGyn

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeFlexiGyn is a portable device to allow gynaecologists to diagnose and treat uterine health issues without the need for anaesthetic.

    It can be used in the field and will improve women’s access to quality healthcare in remote areas without medical infrastructure.

    Typical hysteroscopy systems used to examine the uterus are rigid, leading to high patient discomfort, and they require bulky additional equipment for visualisation.

    The FlexiGyn system has a built-in light and camera on a small diameter flexible scope that can bend in multiple directions, and a display screen giving the medical operator a live view of the uterus. It enables accurate navigation through a patient’s anatomy for pinpoint diagnosis.

    Wessels and his team are developing software to integrate the FlexiGyn device with existing systems in medical practices, including patient scheduling, electronic health record synchronisation, AI-assisted diagnosis, media capture and storage, and medical insurance records to provide a complete software suite with the device.

    Gibson Kawago, Tanzania, WAGA Power Pack

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeTanzanian electrical engineer Gibson Kawago is recycling laptop batteries to provide reliable and affordable power for electric bikes, power banks, solar lights, businesses and homes. His innovation is WAGA Power Pack. The innovation is a response to Tanzania’s unreliable electricity supply and its impact on the economy, safety and health.

    Kawago makes his WAGA Power Pack with recycled batteries bought from informal waste collectors, including women and youth, in five regions in Tanzania. The old batteries are charged then tested after two to four weeks to check if they can still hold a charge equivalent to the manufacturer’s standard. If a battery’s voltage has dropped, or if it is corroded, it is sent for electrochemical recycling. Once assembled, the WAGA Power Pack is a set of lithium-ion battery packs with a strength of 12, 24 and 48 volts, suitable for different applications, such as powering lights, appliances and heaters.

    Kawago currently buys commercial battery management systems, which are connected to a mobile app to enable users to monitor battery performance from their mobile devices. He aims to produce his own system in the future, and to start manufacturing his own lithium-ion batteries, allowing him to make different size battery packs.

    Flavien Kouatcha Simo, Cameroon, Digital Aquaponics

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeDigital Aquaponics is a portable fish farm that uses fish waste to boost production of organic vegetables and herbs. This innovation by engineer Flavien Kouatcha Simo aims to help small-scale farmers increase crop production. It enables ten times more food to be grown with 10% of the water and eliminates the need for chemical fertilisers in crop production.

    Individual versions of Digital Aquaponics are made with recycled wood and tarpaulin, with industrial units made from shipping containers. They measure from four m2 to thirty m2.

    Fikru Gebre Dikumbab, Ethiopia, Multi-Purpose Earth Brick Machine

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeThe Multi-Purpose Earth Brick Machine is a manually operated portable machine to make interlocking compressed earth bricks for more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly construction. It can be reconfigured to create paving bricks and charcoal briquettes. It is designed to be operated by a layperson with minimal training. The machine requires little maintenance and is easy to take apart and transport.

    Mechanical engineer and product designer Fikru Gebre Dikumbab created the Multi-Purpose Earth Brick Machine in response to the arduous maintenance and repairs required for traditional homes in Ethiopia, which are built primarily from earth and wood, as well as the high cost of conventional block bricks

    The machine is made from steel plates and designed to be easily assembled. Using simple physics principles, first- and second-class levers in the machine are used to multiply the force applied, which is important to compress the input materials.

    Emmanuel Ofori Devi, Ghana, MEDBOX

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeMEDBOX is a healthcare monitoring system which records a patient’s vital signs and immediately transmits them to healthcare professionals who can then provide remote medical advice.

    Ghanaian computer programmer Emmanuel Ofori Devi created MEDBOX after his own experience of having to travel a long way to receive medication from a pharmacist. Devi aims for MEDBOX to save chronically ill people from having to spend time and money travelling to receive medical attention or collect their pharmaceuticals by using the device in the comfort of their homes.

    He is working with four pharmacists to test MEDBOX, and aims to produce 200 devices in the next twelve months. His team are also working to integrate a blood pressure monitor into the MEDBOX.

    Cristovão Cacombe, Angola, Arobot

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeArobot is a robotics learning tool for children, modelled to resemble a three-wheeled Angolan motorbike known as the ‘kupapata’. Angolan electronics engineer Cristovão Cacombe created Arobot to address the lack of robotics labs in his country’s schools. He and his team are aiming to provide practical STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education and help students develop foundational skills in electronics engineering, programming and software development.

    Arobot’s two motors are connected to a microcontroller which communicates via Bluetooth with an open-source electronic prototyping platform, enabling users to create and programme interactive electronic objects. The robot is battery powered with its body and wheels made from recycled 3D-printed plastic.

    Cacombe has already provided more than 200 Arobots to over 20 schools, reaching over 1,000 people, including dozens of teachers who have been empowered to educate their pupils.

    Dr Deon Neveling, South Africa, ProbiGal

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeProbiGal is a host-specific multi-strain probiotic designed to promote gut health and prevent bacterial infections in chickens. It comes as a powder to be mixed with the chickens’ drinking water. It helps farmers to promote gut health while avoiding excess use of antibiotics, which can lead to bacteria becoming drug resistant and threatening both human and animal health.

    South African microbiologist Dr Deon Neveling invented ProbiGal by isolating beneficial bacteria from healthy free-range chickens. The bacteria were screened for desirable characteristics, including the ability to produce vitamins and antimicrobial compounds, and to bind to chicken gut cells. Neveling and his team tested the probiotic to ensure safety, its effect on the gut microbiome, and its ability to inhibit pathogens in the guts of chickens.

    Margaret Yainkain Mansaray, Sierra Leone, Smart Green Stove

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeSmart Green Stove is an efficient non-electric cooking device designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health risks that disproportionately affect women and girls in Africa. It also saves time spent cooking and reduces energy use by 70%. The stove burns briquettes made from recycled local materials such as coconut and jelly shells which are usually discarded. Its frame is made from recycled metal which houses a ceramic insulator made of clay mixed with waste coconut fibre and sawdust.

    Margaret Yainkain Mansaray, an energy practitioner and gender expert, created the Smart Green Stove to reduce the time girls and women spend cooking food, helping to mitigate energy poverty. Mansaray established Women in Energy, a Sierra Leone-based company, to launch her product and work to improve the lives of girls in her country.

    Boitumelo Nkatlo, South Africa, Affordable AMD Solution

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeAffordable AMD Solution is a developed technology to treat acid mine drainage (AMD), using industrial waste to recycle contaminated water for human consumption. AMD water is a byproduct of metal and coal mining produced when sulfide minerals come into contact with air and water to form sulfuric acid and dissolved iron which pollute rivers, lakes and water supplies.

    South African chemical engineer Boitumelo Nkatlo developed his affordable innovation to tackle AMD in his country’s mining sector.

    Nkatlo’s innovation has four processes to convert AMD to drinking water. First it is mixed with metallurgical slag, a waste product which extracts base metals from water. A volume of 3,500 litres of contaminated water get mixed with just 8 kilograms of slag, which binds to heavy metals in the AMD and increases its pH levels.

    The slag is cheap and byproducts such as gypsum, magnetite and synthetic lime can be recovered after the process.

    Nkatlo’s prototype has been successfully tested at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research using AMD from one gold and one coal mine. He now plans to install modular units at a coal operation in Mpumalanga and gold mines around Johannesburg.

    Anatoli Kirigwajjo, Uganda, YUNGA

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeYUNGA is a local rescue network providing low-cost security by connecting neighbours to each other and with the police. The innovation is based on the ‘ten household model’, a traditional practice in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania where people use drums to alert their community to an emergency.

    YUNGA is based on an African culture of sharing, based on trust. Communities are divided into networks of 10 to 30 households, with each receiving a YUNGA device that is connected to a local network. A device is also given to police stations.

    In cases of attack or emergency, pressing a button sends a message to other devices and phones in the network, with the victim’s details and address, prompting a community response. It also works through the YUNGA mobile application. The system also works in areas with no internet through a Long Range Wide Area Network with a 20km range. The device can be connected to an online smart phone, or to a simpler phone using SMS and an ordinary GSM phone signal. YUNGA significantly reduces security response times, particularly in rural areas where police stations are far away.

    Kirigwajjo and his team are incorporating artificial intelligence into YUNGA to detect behavioural patterns. The device will learn when people are away, and activate itself when they forget to set their alarm. In the future, Kirigwajjo aims to integrate YUNGA into GPS systems, so it can detect when people leave home without turning on their security system.

    Allen Chafa, Zimbabwe, Smart Water Tech

    Meet the 15 African Innovators Shortlisted for 2023 Royal Academy of Engineering African prizeSmart Water Tech is a real-time water quality monitoring and control system designed to address poor water quality, which results in the spread of waterborne diseases. The six sensors in Chafa’s innovation monitor dissolved oxygen, pH levels, temperature, turbidity, hardness and total dissolved solids.

    Industrial engineer Allen Chafa created Smart Water Tech in response to a 43% increase in cholera cases in Zimbabwe between 2018 and 2020, and 3.5 million fatalities reported annually in Africa due to unsafe drinking water.

    Chafa and his team have installed a lab-sized prototype unit at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, and replicated the concept at three homesteads. In the future, Chafa hopes to develop a biosensor to specifically identify types of bacteria in water, to prevent the need for excessive amounts of chlorine.

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