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African innovators to be honoured

08 May 2013, 09:52 Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - The driving ideology of the African Innovation Prize is to nurture development on the continent that will offer solutions to local challenges.

"The key idea behind all this is that we foster African innovators. We look for African solutions for Africa," David Keller, CEO of the African Innovation Foundation told News24.

He was speaking at the preview round table event, leading up to the gala awards dinner on Tuesday that will award a prize of $100 000 to the winning innovator.

A UN agency said that economic transformation in Africa could only be guaranteed through the development of innovative solutions, rather than just importing models more appropriate to other geographies.

"There's a momentum in Africa currently that there's no way we can ensure economic transformation on the continent and sustainable economic growth unless we invest in innovation," said Eskedar Nega programme officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca).


The African Innovation Prize is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais who founded Quantum Global Group in Switzerland with assets in excess of $8bn.

Keller conceded that Africa had a steep learning curve to mount in order to deliver the results of innovation but explained that the prize was carefully structured to ensure that it complied with the demands of African markets.

"This learning curve allows us come closer to a definition of what innovation actually means to us and what type of innovation we are trying to foster."

The prize is awarded across five areas: Market potential with the heaviest weighting; impact; scalability; originality; utility.

More than 900 applications for the prize were reduced to a short-listed field of 22, and these were further reduced to just 10.

In 2012, Dr Mohamed Sanad of Egypt won the first prize for his low-cost, foldable base-station antenna.

The finalists in 2013 include Dr Dudley Jackson's SavvyLoo, a toilet for rural areas that separates liquids from solids to improve the environmental impact and decrease the potential for disease.


South African company Mobenzi developed software that provides mobile data collection that can assist health professionals caring for patients in rural areas.

"The recognition of being nominated has been an enormous honour for us and for me personally. It really does help with the years of sacrifice that one puts into coming up with something which, at first, maybe you're a bit sceptical," Andi Friedman, Mobenzi managing director told News24.

Nigerian inventor Justus Nwaoga developed a solar collector that uses an African medicinal plant.

Beyond the first prize, there is also a Business Prize and Social Impact Innovation Prize of $25 000 each up for grabs.

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