South African Neo Hutiri has won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Africa Prize for his smart system for rapidly dispensing medicine.
Pelebox is a smart locker system for distributing prescriptions to patients with chronic conditions while easing the administrative burden on healthcare staff. A wall of digitally controlled lockers is filled with medicines for different patients, with each patient given a single-use pin to open a locker and gain access to their prescription.
The platform gives patients access to their medicine within 36 seconds, compared with an average of 3.5 hours it takes in other healthcare facilities. It’s claimed that the invention could dramatically cut waiting times at public clinics for the 4.7 million South Africans who must collect antiretroviral drugs each month, reducing HIV death rates across the country.
Hutiri, 31, is the first ever South African to win the RAEng’s award and will take home a winner’s prize of £25,000. Four finalists from across sub-Saharan Africa delivered presentations at an awards ceremony in Kampala, Uganda, on 4 June 2019, with the Africa Prize judges and a live audience voting for the most promising engineering innovation.
“Hutiri is a deserving winner,” said Africa Prize judge, John Lazar. “Pelebox will improve healthcare for everyone using and working in a severely strained public healthcare system.”
The prize also comes with a support package that includes funding, comprehensive business training, bespoke mentoring and access to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s network of experienced engineers and experts.
“Winning the Africa Prize is a massive achievement for us,” said Hutiri. “We can now ramp up our manufacturing efforts using the prize money. The networks we are part of will also be instrumental for the growth of our business.”
The three runners up, who each win £10,000, are:
KAOSHI, Chukwunonso Arinze from Nigeria – a mobile app that connects money senders across the globe
Smart Havens Africa, Anne Rweyora from Uganda – sustainable smart homes built from appropriate and affordable technologies, designed to make home ownership more accessible to African women
Sign-IO, Roy Allela from Kenya – a mobile app with smart gloves that track and translate sign language movements into speech and text in real time