12 new African innovations you need to know about right now

African Innovation prize

A while back, we told you about the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

The prize, sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), covers a variety of engineering disciplines, including agriculture, nanotechnology, sanitation, security and mobile applications. The mandate behind the contest is to celebrate early stage innovations that will have a marked impact on the lives of people across the continent.

The contest organisers have just announced the 12 semi-finalists, who were whittled down from a much larger field of entries from across 15 Sub-Saharan African countries. Each of the 12 semi-finalists will receive training and mentoring from top business development and engineering experts.

According to Chair of the judging panel Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng, a Fellow of the RAEng. “The training will be focused on proving, scaling up and commercialising their engineering innovations.”

Following the six-month period of training and mentorship, three finalists will be invited to present their innovations and an overall winner will be selected to receive £25 000, with two runners-up to be awarded £10 000 each.

“Deciding on the shortlist was extremely difficult as the standard was high, and the entrepreneurial talent was clear to see,” said Brinded.

“All the shortlisted entrants have innovations with the potential to have a significant, positive impact and will benefit from the networks and entrepreneurial skills gained during the next six months”.

The 12 entries cover everything from mobile network interoperability to farm security and a process for producing enzyme free banana juice.

1. A SIMple solution: multi-network mobile phone service
Samuel Njugana Wangui, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Chura team Stephanie Gaku, Samuel Njuguna, Samuel Njogu and Byron Sitawa. There is a 5th team member who is not in the pictur

In Kenya, where this innovation originates, most mobile service users have at least two SIM cards to ensure signal strength across different carriers. Chura is a web-based system which 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.

2. Adaptable safety: removable window burglar-bar system

Captain Abubakar Surajo, Nigerian Army Transformation & Innovation Centre, Nigeria

A removable burglar-bar system that enables a quick emergency exit from a building is a new innovation that makes burglar bars more versatile. A locking mechanism incorporated into the burglar-bar system can only be unlocked from the inside. Until unlocked the bars are impenetrable. This means that users can feel safe and secure within their home or business, without the burglar bars preventing their escape in an emergency.

3. Mobile payment application

Tolulupe Ajuwape, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

This is a Nigerian innovation which allows merchants and customers to make and receive card payments for products and services using their phones and tablets. Mobile money applications have had great success across Africa, and the application incorporates innovative functionality to take it a step further. This includes receipts issued by SMS or email, building customer databases for marketing, turning the host device into a Point of Sale terminal, and storage of transaction records via barcodes in a safe cloud-based platform. The business-orientated solution reduces the costs of banking, reduces the risks of cash related crimes, and gets small businesses to record their transactions so they become part of the formal tax-paying sector. The application also has a management tool for business owners to track their inventory and keep basic accounting of expenditure.

4. Mechanical system to prepare clear banana juice

Dr Oscar Kibazohi, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania & Makerere University, Uganda

Banana juicer

Clear banana juice is difficult to produce because pulping ripe bananas produces a highly viscous puree. The mechanical mashing of bananas without the addition of enzymes or extraction aids is an innovation from Tanzania to create clear banana juice. It is mirrored on the traditional process of kneading a mixture of ripe banana and grass or fibres until the juice oozes out from the pulp. The technology allows for juice-producing banana varieties, which fetch low prices and are being phased out, to be transformed into a more valuable product.

5. Real-time quality control for fluids manufacturing
Dr Reinhardt Kotzé, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), South Africa

Flow-Viz is an industrial system from South Africa (co-developed between CPUT and SP – Technical Research Institute of Sweden) which improves process and quality control in a fluids industrial operation. Its aim is to replace time-consuming off-line measurements in the quality control laboratory with continuous real-time process monitoring that takes place directly in the production line. Currently, operators take fluid samples and conduct time-consuming lab tests to monitor product quality. The innovation consists of a sensor unit, an operator’s panel and software with which to view the analysis of viscosity and flow-profiles. Pilot tests have been conducted on products such as cement grout, food products such as yoghurt, soup, beer and ketchup, bio-chemicals like ethanol as well as detergents, explosive emulsions and paper pulp.

6. Low-cost sustainable water filter system
Dr Askwar Hilonga, The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science & Technology, Tanzania

Installing filters at Gongali Empower Community Center, Arusha, Tanzania

This innovation integrates nanotechnology with sand-based water filtration to provide clean, safe drinking water. The process is affordable and sustainable and highly relevant in rural settings across Africa where access to clean water remains a huge challenge.

7. To the point: environmentally friendly precision fertiliser applicator

Musenga Silwawa, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, Zambia

Fertiliser machine

Small-scale farmers in Zambia typically apply commercial fertiliser to their crops by hand, which not only results in inconsistent application but is labour intensive and time-consuming. This innovation from Zambia is an efficient and consistent fertiliser applicator that eliminates fertiliser wastage and allows farmers to apply fertiliser to targeted spots with one simple action.

8. Latrine systems to improve urban sanitation

Samuel Malinga, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda


People living in the Ugandan city of Kampala rely heavily on traditional pit latrines in the absence of flushing toilets. Latrines are easily flooded, which increases the risk of diarrheal disease. This innovation involves several interventions across the process of a properly functioning sanitation system. Appropriate technologies are used to improve pit latrines, to provide an efficient emptying service, to transport and treat faecal sludge and to re-use treated sludge.

9. An even playing field: small-scale crushing machine for sustainable gold mining

Rujeko Masike, Harare Institute of Technology, Zimbabwe

Gold crushing machine

The small to medium mining sector in Zimbabwe has a need for portable ore crushing machines. This innovation scales down jaw and roller machines and incorporates local materials to make affordable, portable and appropriate crushing machines for local miners.

10. Early warning system: precise fence security alarm system

Ernst Pretorius, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Mounted to the wiring posts of a fence, the Draadsitter (Afrikaans for ‘fence sitter’) innovation detects tampering on fences of up to 800 metres. Using sensors, the device warns owners of the location and nature of tampering on their fence, allowing them to react before security is breached. The sensor can also detect fires.

11. Mother tongue: Mobile phone application to teach children local language

Ian Mutamiri, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe


This Android application from Zimbabwe teaches children how to read Shona by improving their syllable-to-sound association. The innovation is specially geared for children with reading disabilities. Known as NatiV, the app focuses on teaching children languages using native speakers whose accent and intonation they recognise. The application could also be used to teach other languages.

12. Low cost biodegradable degreaser for mining, agriculture and manufacturing

Chinenye Justin Nwaogwugwu, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria

This innovation from Nigeria is an affordable, heavy-duty multi-surface and multi-purpose degreaser and cleaner that removes organic and inorganic dirt from washable surfaces. Produced using biodegradable raw materials, it is environmentally friendly, non-corrosive and non-acidic, and cleans an array of materials without harming them, making it particularly suited to manufacturing, mining, and agricultural applications among others.



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