Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation marks 10th anniversary

The Royal Academy of Engineering is investing over £1m in alumni of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation programme, marking its 10th year with a special anniversary award medal.

Technovera/The Royal Academy of Engineering

The medal, awarded yesterday (January 31, 2024), is one of 35 anniversary grants, prizes, and accelerator programme awards being invested in African innovators who are solving key development challenges on the continent.

Alumni of the Africa Prize programme were put through a series of interviews over the last two months, and each had to pitch to the panel of judges and audience members in under three minutes at the Royal Academy of Engineering yesterday.

Alumnus of the Africa Prize, South Africa’s Neo Hutiri, was awarded the anniversary medal and £50,000 to further support his business, Technovera. His product, Pelebox Smart Lockers, is placed at convenient collection points across South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, and is designed to improve access to chronic disease medication.

Hutiri said that since it was founded in 2016, Technovera has reduced a patient’s waiting and collection time from three hours to collection of their medication in under 30 minutes.

The award was presented by HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony that celebrated some of the most successful innovators and businesses from the past 10 years of the programme.

Africa Prize 10th anniversary Alumni Medal winner Neo Hutiri - Rob Lacey/The Royal Academy of Engineering

Aisha Raheem was a runner-up with Farmz2u from Nigeria and Kenya, a business that increases efficiency for market players in the food system through seamless operational systems.

Another runner-up, Samuel Njuguna, developed Chura Limited in Kenya, a web-based, multinetwork system that allows users to move airtime between their different SIMs regardless of carrier, buy airtime from service providers that can be used on any network, send airtime to family members or employees, or exchange airtime for cash.

Both runners-up were awarded £15,000 to further develop their innovations and businesses.

The Academy said that the remaining 10th anniversary funding will be awarded through grants and activities to boost the growth and sustainability of African-founded businesses. These initiatives include legal support, digital skills enhancement, and global networking opportunities.

Over its first decade, the Africa Prize has supported over 140 entrepreneurs across 23 African countries with business training programmes, support through its alumni network as well as engineering mentoring, communications support, and pitching opportunities.

Its alumni are working to tackle many of Africa’s most pressing development challenges, including access to power, food, and water security, adapting to climate change, and improving public infrastructure.

The Academy said that since 2014, the alumni have collectively raised over $39m in finance, created over 28,000 jobs, and have introduced over 470 products and services to the market in more than 40 countries across five continents. Over 10 million people have benefitted from the engineering innovations and employment opportunities created by Africa Prize alumni.

In a statement, Hutiri said: “I am honoured to have been recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering and to have been selected alongside such an accomplished group of innovators. The Prize was instrumental in accelerating Technovera-Pelebox Smart Lockers over the past five years.

“It has provided a community that, has in the past and continues, to support and inspire as we move forward. Thanks to this award, we aim to scale-up the work that we’ve done to reach more communities.”

The full details of the 10th anniversary medal shortlist can be found here.

Applications for the next cohort of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation will open in spring 2024.