10 Nominees for the 2017 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA)

Africa needs to unlock her untapped potentials by spurring and supporting innovation. Across the continent, Africans are telling some of the most amazing stories–stories of innovation and technology providing solutions and driving growth and prosperity in Africa. This is what the 2017 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) taking place at the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra, Ghana, will be all about. 

Image source: Africa Innovation Foundation

From the 10 innovative nominees shortlisted for IPA, 3 winners of IPA will be announced by Tuesday 18 July 2017. This year’s IPA Award is the themed “African Innovation: Investing in Prosperity”.


According to the African Innovation Foundation (AIF), the 10 shortlisted nominees for the Prize are from Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, including 3 first-timers Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Zimbabwe. Two nominees are from Nigeria. All 10 contestants will be pitching their innovations of IPA panel of judges 5-16 July 2017.

Image source: Africa Innovation Foundation


Meet the 10 African innovators and their innovations. 


10 Nominees for the Innovation Prize for Africa 2017 Image source: Africa Innovation Foundation

The 10 innovations are variously innovations in communications and smart solutions, innovations in artificial intelligence and mechanical solutions, and innovations in healthcare solutions. The nominees are:


Innovations in communications and smart solutions


  1. Peris Bosire – FarmDrive, Kenya

Image source: Ventures Africa

Small farmers in Africa find it extremely difficult getting credit. Banks think it’s too risky to grant credit to them. FarmDrive is changing that with the new methodology it has developed to make access to credit by small farmers less risky for banks through its innovative risk-assessment model.


According to Ventures Africa, FarmDrive is a financial technology company that has developed a mobile phone-based application. The application collects data and provides an alternative risk-assessment model for smallholder farmers.

2. Nokwethu Khojane – Lakheni, South Africa

Image source: Ventures Africa

Poor people or low-income earners in Africa, as other parts of the world, often pay more for less because they don’t have the income to buy more, thus missing out on best prices. Lakheni is doing something about this by developing a social and business model innovation that “aggregates poor households into a buyer’s market, leveraging on mobile technology.


3. Omolabake Adenle – Voice Recognition and Speech Synthesis Software for African Languages, Nigeria

Image source: Ventures Africa

Imagine African people with different languages been able to interact with hardware devices such as mobile phones and digital services because the digital world speaks in their local languages. With Voice Recognition and Speech Synthesis Software for African Languages, you don’t need to keep imagining it. This application from Nigeria can open up Africa and bring digital revolution to everyone, regardless of the language they speak. 


The innovation is “a software solution that can understand and digitize spoken African languages and synthesize speech from African languages presented as digitised text”, explains Ventures Africa.


4. Nzola Swasisa- Lokole, Democratic Republic of Congo

Image source: Ventures Africa

More than 70% of people in Africa don’t have access to efficient communications. Lokole enables people access efficient email communication anywhere with cellular coverage at a price that is 100-1000 cheaper than accessing email via regular cellular bandwidth costs. With Lakole, costs per user could be as little as $0.01/person/day. It achieves this with advanced algorithms that compress email and also schedules uploads and downloads of data to when data bundles costs are at their cheapest.  Access to health, e-commerce, and business can get a lot better.


Innovations  in Artificial intelligence and mechanical solutions


5. Badr Idriss – Atlan Space, Morocco

Image source: Ventures Africa

6. Monitoring activities and operations over wide areas of land or water is a big challenge for many African governments. Think of border patrols, deforestation, illegal or maritime activities, oil spills or pipeline bunkering, etc.


Atlan Space develops software technology that is then deployed to manage the operations of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. And by 

integrating Artificial Intelligence, they are able to collect data, analyse data, and produce actionable reports requiring no human intervention. 


6. Aly El-Shafei – SEMAJIB, Egypt

Image source: Ventures Africa

Africa needs energy. Generating the level of energy it needs is critical to Africa’s growth and development. The Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuator Journal Integrated Bearing (SEMAJIB) is a device designed to support energy-generating turbines. It can be used to improve efficiency and reduce costs of generating energy in Africa.


SEMAJIB has been patented as a versatile smart bearing that changes its characteristics as it operates. It consists of a magnetic bearing imbedded in an oil-filled journal bearing, thus forming the smart controllable bearing. The flooding of the bearing with oil is a game changer as the purpose of bearings has traditionally been to expel oil.

Innovations in Healthcare solutions


7. Dougbeh-Chris Nyan – New Technology for Rapid Detection of Many Infections Using Only One Test, Liberia

Image source: Ventures Africa

Africa needs to manage infections, better and faster. The spread of diseases in Africa is not only because there is poor access to health but also poor detection of infectious diseases. This causes health providers inability to decide on the clinical care for patients or people who need them. Technology can play a crucial role in achieving this rapid detection and management mechanism. This is exactly what the innovation from Liberia achieves.


The new technology allows for rapid detection of many infections using a single test. It is a diagnostic test that can detect and simultaneously differentiate at least 3 to 7 infections within 10 to 40 minutes.


According to Venture Africa description of the rapid-detection innovation, the “innovation is easy in any setting and particularly in rural areas. Additionally, the device is able to detect and distinguish multiple infections which bear the same symptoms for instance, when a patient has yellow fever, malaria, and Ebola. Whereas most testing methods take 3 – 7 days, this device gives test results in 10 – 40 minutes.”


8. Olanisun Olufemi Adewole – Sweat TB Test, Nigeria

Image source: Ventures Africa


TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as a leading cause of death in Africa. Delay in diagnosis and missed diagnosis of 3million TB cases occur leading to a continuous spread of the disease. The available high-tech methods cannot be deployed in rural centres and they are too time-consuming as TB patients often have to visit clinics repeatedly before a diagnosis is made.


Sweat TB Test brings TB test to everyone. It is a non-invasive rapid diagnostic test to detect tuberculosis (TB). Sweat TB Test leverages on TB-specific marker in the sweat of patients to produce a point-of-care test to detect TB within ten minutes, without any needle prick.


9. Gift Gana – Dr. CADx , Zimbabwe

Image source: Ventures Africa


Radiologists are scarce in Africa. Consequently, most medical images are read by general doctors or other health-care workers, thus exposing patients to risks associated with inaccurate diagnosis. Wrong diagnosis often lead to wrong treatments, leading to more complications and even death.


Dr CADx is a software solution that helps doctors and health care workers diagnose medical images more accurately. It uses deep learning to interpret medical images and achieve an accuracy of 82 percent an improvement over the 70 percent average for radiologists. Dr CADx is designed to work in low-resource settings with poor internet connectivity opening it up for use in many rural settings in Africa.


10. Philippa Ngaju Makobore – ECGF, Uganda

Image source: Ventures Africa


Over 10 percent of children admitted to East African hospitals need immediate infusion therapy. Over-infusion in children increased the absolute risk of death by 3.3 percent at 48 hours.


The Electronically Controlled Gravity Feed Infusion Set (ECGF) is a medical device designed to accurately administer intravenous (IV) fluids and drugs by controlling the rate of fluid flow based on feedback from a drop sensor.


The ECGF is easy to operate and has key safety features. These features include alarms for the rate of infusion (rapid or slow), total volume (over or under), and faulty sensors. A battery utilizing a hybrid (AC mains and solar) charging bed powers the device. The ECGF has the potential to save lives by achieving accuracy and safety at 8 percent the cost of a brand-new infusion pump.


What the Winners of IPA will go home with


YIPA 2017 will offer prizes, incentives, and more to winners. These include Grand prize of $100,000, Second Prize of $25,000, and Special Prize for Social Impact $25,000.

“Africa needs solutions, not just talk. The Innovation Prize for Africa by Africa Innovation Foundation is spurring and supporting innovation in Africa to provide solutions to problems Africans face. And this is good for Africa”, says Senator Iyere Ihenyen, Lead Partner, Infusion Lawyers. “For six years now, the Prize has become bigger and bigger, attracting innovators across all 52 African countries. From innovations in communications services to healthcare delivery, artificial intelligence to other technological inventions, Africans are providing solutions to African problems. With Innovation Prize for Africa, the goal is to ensure that these innovations don’t die for lack of support. At Infusion Lawyers, we are excited about this development. This is why we follow these innovations wherever they are, especially home-grown innovations by Africans for Africa.”

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