A professor of Mechanical Engineering at Cairo University, Aly al-Shafei, has won the grand prize for the 2017 Innovation Prize for Africa.
The Innovation Prize for Africa, which is the landmark program of the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) awarded three African innovators for their incredible innovations.
Out of a total of over 2500 applications, 10 nominees were selected from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Professor Aly al-Shafei emerged as the Grand Prize winner with a cash prize of $100,000. In second place was Philippa Ngaju Makobore of Uganda and Dougbeh-Chris Nyan of Liberia winning the Special Prize for Social Impact.
The AIF said in a statement that Shafei’s innovation, Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuator Journal Integrated Bearing (SEMAJIB), which was patented in the U.S. in 2010, is a world-class solution that supports energy generating turbines and can be used to improve efficiency and reduce costs of generating energy in Africa.
According to the AIF, the main obstacle for increasing electricity generation capacity in Africa continues to be the high cost of electricity production, which is forcing governments to subsidize consumption. Shafei’s innovation addresses these difficulties. SEMAJIB, significantly improves turbine performance in single line combined cycle plants as well as conventional generator technology.
A number of Nigerians were nominated as finalist. Their profiles and inventions are below.
Omolabake Adenle, Nigeria: Voice Recognition and Speech Synthesis Software for African Languages
This is a software solution that can understand and digitize spoken African languages, and synthesize speech from African languages presented as digitized text. Digitizing African languages in this way allows Africans to interact with hardware devices such as mobile phones, and digital services such as call-center applications by speaking their local language. The software can be integrated into a wide range of devices and third-party software applications. While voice recognition and speech synthesis software have been developed for various Western and Asian languages, there has been very limited commercial application or academic research for African languages. The difficulty lies in modelling tonality present in most African languages and limited data resources for language modelling. This innovation opens up opportunities for Africans with low literacy levels to also enjoy the benefits of the digital revolution.
Olanisun Olufemi Adewole, Nigeria: Sweat TB Test, A non-invasive rapid skin test to detect Tuberculosis
Sweat TB Test, is a non-invasive rapid diagnostic test to detect tuberculosis (TB). TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as a leading cause of death in Africa. Available methods are high tech; cannot be deployed in rural centres, dependent only sputum which sometimes may not be collectible and considered messy by patients. It is also time consuming with patients making repeated clinic visits before a diagnosis is made. Delay in diagnosis and missed diagnosis of 3million TB cases occur leading to continuous spread of the disease. Sweat TB Test leverages on TB specific marker in sweat of patients, to produce a point- of- care test to detect TB, within ten minutes, without any needle prick. In simple steps, reports are read and patients commenced on medication as needed at the same clinic visit. It has the potential to contribute towards effectively controlling TB, reduce TB related deaths and holds promise to prevent drug resistance TB in Africa.
Congratulation to all the nominees and the winners!
About the African Innovation Foundation (AIF)
AIF works to increase the prosperity of Africans by catalysing the innovation spirit in Africa.
About the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA)
IPA is a landmark initiative of the AIF and its goal is to strengthen African innovation ecosystems through supporting a culture of innovation and competitiveness, whilst spurring growth of innovative, market-driven African solutions to African challenges.