Five years ago the Africa Innovation Foundation (AIF) started the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) in order to support African innovators by unlocking their potential and accelerate the African innovation drive, and promoting home-grown solutions for Africa’s prosperity.

Currently in its sixth year with a network of more than 6000 African innovators in more than 50 countries, and with a thematic focus on agriculture/agribusiness, environment, energy and water, health and well-being, information, communication and technologies (ICTs), and finally manufacturing and service industry, Ghana is set to host the event in July. This year’s theme is African Innovation: Investing in Prosperity.

According to the IPA press release, 10 nominees will contend for the award. The shortlisted innovators come from nine African countries; Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. This year’s innovators were lauded for displaying incredible proficiency through innovative solutions addressing challenges in agriculture value chain, health care, energy, communications, service industries as well as surveillance using drone technology.

The AIF Chairman of the Board, Walter Fust was quoted as saying, “We are pleased to share with you the names of our IPA2017 nominees as we continue on our mission to catalyse the innovation spirit and unlock untapped potential in Africa. For the first time, this year’s nominees include innovators from Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Zimbabwe”.

“Moreover, given the instrumental role African women play in transforming Africa, it is thrilling to see more women among the 10 nominees with game changing innovations. By providing platforms to recognize innovation excellence in Africa and mobilizing for African innovators, we continue to live up to our credo of engaging, inspiring and transforming. The inspiring stories of these nominees remind us that innovation and African-led solutions are indeed the answer to Africa’s growth and prosperity.”

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The IPA has established itself as a forerunner in encouraging innovation initiatives on the continent. A grand share-prize of $185,000 and incentives to spur growth and prosperity in Africa through home-grown solutions is offered. The grand prize winner walks away with $100,000, the second prize winner gets $25,000 and the special prize for social impact innovation also gets $25,000 while seven nominees each receive a voucher worth $5,000.

The Pan African initiative has seen a tremendous growth in the applications it receives and has attracted more than 7,500 innovators from 52 African countries. This year, entries were received from over 2,530 innovators across 48 African countries. The release further stated that the Foundation has supported past winners and nominees with approximately US$ 1 million to move their innovations forward. Due to exposure generated by IPA, past winners have gone on to secure over US$30 million in investments to grow and scale their businesses.

According to the IPA Director, Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl she said, “Over the years, IPA has stimulated impactful and market-oriented innovations aiming at changing lives and transforming Africa. In this sixth edition, we want to promote more investment in home-grown innovations as well as intra-African collaboration and trade to allow the scaling up of viable innovations across borders”.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to work with our partners to ensure the innovations of the 10 nominees will be available to African markets and beyond. We invite you to join us and unlock the potential of African innovators, starting by investing in these 10 nominees”.

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The IPA team comprises of the Director, Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl, the IPA process manager Robinson Esialimba and the IPA programme officer Laura Yuego.

The IPA has received the highest endorsement from H.E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, who will deliver the keynote address during the Awards ceremony.

African #innovation is a driver of socio-economic growth. Here are 10 steps to reinforce innovation driven economies. Are you taking them. Photo: Twitter/IPAprize

The list of shortlisted top 10 IPA nominees.

Peris Bosire, Kenya: FarmDrive
FarmDrive is a financial technology company that has developed a mobile phone based application that collects data and provides an alternative risk assessment model for small holder farmers.

Nokwethu Khojane, South Africa: Lakheni, Turning Social Capital into Buying Power

Lakheni is a social and business model innovation which seeks to aggregate low-income households into buying-groups in order to negotiate favourable discounts for goods and services supplied to these households. Most poor people end up paying for goods and services at a unit price that is usually much higher than the unit price paid by other people with more disposable income.

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.

Nzola Swasisa, Democratic Republic of Congo: Lokole

Lokole, is a device that enables access to efficient email communication anywhere with cellular coverage at a price that is one hundred to one thousand times cheaper than accessing email via regular cellular bandwidth costs. Lokole achieves this firstly by creating a shareable local area network where up to a hundred users within a 25 meters’ radius can access the network and share the costs.

Badr Idriss, Morocco: Atlan Space

Atlan Space develops software technology that is then deployed to manage the operations of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. The software is currently tested for use in managing operations in detecting illegal or harmful maritime activity such as illegal fishing or oil spills over wide expanse areas. UAVs operated by this software can be launched and deployed into monitoring operations without having an aircraft operator.

Aly El-Shafei, Egypt: Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuator Journal Integrated Bearing “SEMAJIB”

The patented innovation (SEMAJIB) presented by Dr. El-Shafei, is a smart bearing which is versatile and can change 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.

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

This is a rapid diagnostic test that can detect and simultaneously differentiate at least three to seven infections at the same time within 10 to 40 minutes. In most African countries, there is a lack of sophisticated diagnostic devices and limited expertise in high-tech diagnostics. This hinders the clinical decision-making ability of healthcare providers. This test provides a solution to this clinical problem. The innovation is easy to use in any setting and particularly in rural areas.

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. 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.

Gift Gana, Zimbabwe: Dr. CADx

Dr CADx is a software solution that helps doctors and health care workers diagnose medical images more accurately. Due to the scarcity of radiologists on the continent, most medical images are read by general doctors or other health care workers who lack expertise and end up misdiagnosing more than 30% of the cases that they review.  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.

Philippa Ngaju Makobore, Uganda: Electronically Controlled Gravity Feed Infusion Set (ECGF)

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.