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Thursday, September 21, 2023

South African and Ugandan Innovators Jointly Win Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation


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Edmund Wessels, a biomedical engineer from South Africa, and Anatoli Kirigwajjo, an electrical engineer from Uganda, have been announced as the joint winners of the prestigious 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, presented by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This marks the first time in the history of the award that two innovators have shared the top honor.

Wessels clinched the prize with his groundbreaking creation, FlexiGyn, a portable handheld device designed to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of women’s uterine problems. The device, which does not require anaesthetic or expensive equipment, aims to enhance women’s access to reproductive healthcare, particularly in remote areas. Wessels envisions bringing healthcare directly to women, regardless of their location or the availability of medical infrastructure.

Kirigwajjo secured the award with YUNGA, a low-cost digital security network that connects neighbors and the police within a 20-kilometer radius. The innovative system, accessible through a physical device, smartphone app, or SMS service, has already proven successful in preventing break-ins and related crimes in nearly 1,000 households across central Uganda. The YUNGA team aims to expand the network to 32,000 households in the country within the next two years.

Both winners were presented with a prize of £25,000 (equivalent to approximately 587,670 ZAR or 117,240,700 UGX) to further develop their innovative solutions. The award not only recognizes their engineering prowess but also highlights the potential impact their inventions can have on their respective communities and beyond.

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An elated Kirigwajjo expressed the hope that YUNGA’s household networks would make communities more resilient against criminal activities, fostering safety and enabling economic activities to thrive. Winning the Africa Prize will provide their business with exposure in new markets across the continent, opening doors to investments and partnerships.

Wessels and Kirigwajjo were chosen from a pool of 15 shortlisted candidates representing 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Prize, now in its tenth year, supports and promotes engineering innovation by providing rigorous business training, mentoring, and lifelong project support to entrepreneurs across the region.

The award ceremony, held in Accra, Ghana, also recognized Chukwuemeka Eze from Nigeria with £10,000 for his Revive Kit, an e-mobility service that converts gas-powered three-wheel motorbikes to run on batteries, and Gibson Kawago from Tanzania with £10,000 for the WAGA PAWA Pack, a power pack made with recycled laptop batteries to provide reliable and affordable power for various applications.

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Additionally, Tolulope Olukokun from Nigeria was awarded the Africa Prize’s One-to-Watch Award of £5,000 for his innovation, an electric cargo bike equipped with a battery-powered fridge to help smallholder farmers transport fresh food crops to market.

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, has established itself as Africa’s leading award for supporting and upscaling engineering innovation. The program has nurtured over 130 entrepreneurs across 20 African countries, resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs and significant revenue generation.

The call for entries for the 2024 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is now open, inviting individuals and small teams from sub-Saharan Africa with scalable engineering innovations to apply by the deadline of July 25, 2023. The program aims to continue identifying and empowering the next generation of engineering entrepreneurs who will drive positive change and address local challenges across the continent.

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