The prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation announced its four 2019 finalists. Among them are a ground-breaking smart glove that translates sign language to speech via an app, a peer to peer foreign exchange platform, a smart locker that dispenses TB/HIV and other chronic medicines, and smart homes built to help African women afford their own property.
The finalists come from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa. Neither Kenyan nor South African innovators have won the Africa Prize to date.
Kenya has an estimated 600,000 sign language users, and the Sign-IO team aims to set up a local production facility for the components needed for the smart glove.
Since being shortlisted for the Africa Prize, Sign-IO has added business skills to the company team, streamlined finances, improved transparency and refined its business model.
Since joining the Africa Prize shortlist, KAOSHI has partnered with banks in Nigeria and Ghana, more than doubled its team, and is raising investment to expand to a dozen banks within two years.
A smart locker system in South Africa is helping patients in public healthcare facilities to access long-term medicine faster.
Pelebox, developed by Neo Hutiri, is a simple wall of lockers controlled by a digital system that allows healthcare workers to stock prescription refills. Pelebox sends patients a one-time PIN, which they enter into the user panel on the locker to access their medicine.
Pelebox eases pressure on the healthcare system and by streamlining the process for those collecting prescriptions, shortens queues for all patients using public healthcare facilities.
South Africa has the biggest antiretroviral therapy programme in the world, with more than 4.7 million patients collecting monthly treatment from public facilities.
Pelebox gives those patients access to their medicine within 36 seconds, in contrast to the average 3.5 hours it takes in other facilities. While shortlisted for the Africa Prize, mentors have helped the Pelebox team change their focus from product development to manufacturing, and obtain a trade mark for the brand.
From Uganda, Smart Havens Africa are sustainable, smart homes built from appropriate and affordable technologies, geared towards making home ownership more accessible to African women. Technologies include locally designed brickmaking that uses less material, designs that reduce temperatures in hot climates, custom biodigesters, and solar water and electricity installations to keep utility costs down.
Co-founder Anne Rweyora, a teacher by training, believes home ownership should be more attainable to the average working woman.
In Africa, only 13% of women have sole-ownership of housing, with three times more men owning homes outright.
The Smart Havens rent-to-own plan helps women buy homes without increasing debt and poverty. Africa Prize training resulted in an entirely new, more scalable business model and more detailed customer insights. The Smart Havens team have also created an online system for applicants, and developed
partnerships with financial institutions and development organisations through media exposure.