News: Ethiopian becomes first innovator shortlisted for Africa Prize 2021 entrepreneurial innovators shaping the continent

Orbit health team members computer code unit Addis Abeba Ethiopia February 03 2021

Addis Abeba, February 18/2021 – Ethiopian national Pazion Cherinet, who developed Orbit Health, a digital health platform which manages and stores patient data, including appointments, diagnoses, tests, doctors’ notes and prescriptions, became the first innovator from Ethiopia to ever be selected for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Pazion is one of 16 entrepreneurs who have been shortlisted for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation (APEI) – UK Royal Academy of Engineering, according to a statement sent to Addis Standard by the organizers. The 2021 shortlist represents nine countries including, for the first time, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ethiopia and the Gambia. Six of the 16-strong shortlist are female innovators.

“The 2021 shortlist represents nine countries including, for the first time, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ethiopia and the Gambia. Six of the 16-strong shortlist are female innovators.”

This year’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation shortlist includes the creators of a low-cost ventilator powered by water instead of electricity, a digital financial services solution that audits users based on their online social profiles, and sustainable packaging developed from banana stems to help battle plastic pollution and deforestation.

The Africa Prize, run every year by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering, awards crucial commercialization support to ambitious African innovators who are transforming their communities through scalable engineering solutions.

The program has a track record of identifying engineering entrepreneurs with significant potential, many of whom have gone on to achieve greater commercial success and social impact.

A unique package of support – running from December 2020 to July 2021 – is being provided to the shortlisted innovators to help them accelerate their businesses. The benefits of selection include comprehensive and tailored business training, bespoke mentoring, media and communications training, funding and access to the Academy’s network of high-profile, experienced engineers and business experts based in the UK and across Africa, as well as access to the alumni network after the program concludes. This year marks the first fully digital program, providing intensive expert guidance and community support through a mixture of online group and one-on-one sessions.

Following this period of support, four finalists will be selected and invited to pitch their improved innovation and business plan to the judges and a live audience. A winner will be selected to receive £25,000, and three runners up will receive £10,000 each.

Emma Wade Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa at the UK Department for International Trade said: “It makes me very proud to be part of this initiative that demonstrates so clearly and practically the power of partnerships between Africa and the UK. The range of innovations and innovators in this year’s shortlist offer an insight into Africa’s extraordinary diversity and talent and illustrate the importance we all place on nurturing and supporting Africa’s self-starters to create and scale sustainable and inclusive products and services that will help us rebuild our economies to be greener, cleaner and more resilient.

“The Africa Prize helps to accelerate entrepreneurial capacity and ecosystems. I am excited to follow the progress of this year’s cohort, and am certain we will see many of these inventions go on to create and sustain jobs and benefit our societies, as so many of the previous participants in the Africa Prize have done.”

Alumni of the Prize are projected to impact over three million lives in the next five years and have already created over 1500 jobs and raised more than $14 million in grants and equity.

Africa Prize alumni have also played an important role in supporting the continent’s COVID-19 pandemic response, with the program’s training and additional Academy funding helping them pivot their businesses and address community needs. Together, they reached over 220,000 people with innovations including affordable hand sanitizer, remote education, 3D-printed PPE, access to finance for smallholder farmers and a track and trace platform allowing worshipers to attend religious services.

The 2021 shortlist includes innovations that provide exciting solutions for key challenges addressing most of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including reducing waste, improving healthcare efficiency, and a range of digital solutions to improve business productivity. The companies range from transforming banana and plantain stems to biodegradable paper packaging products, a low-cost biowaste processing machine for farmers to manage biowaste, a high efficiency machine used to process garri, and bioplastic made from biomass which dissolves in water. The entrepreneurs have also developed a cost-effective 3D printed prosthetic hand for people with upper limb amputations, 3D printed orthopaedic equipment for patients and healthcare workers, a low-cost non-electric and non-invasive ventilator for patients with respiratory difficulties, a device that uses artificial intelligence to simplify intravenous therapy, and a digital healthcare platform which manages the medical data of patients to ensure continuity of care.

Other innovations selected aim to improve business productivity and upskill students and job seekers, such as a cloud-based application to help increase the productivity of waste management and other service-based businesses, a tech recruitment platform for companies to hire software engineers, a smartphone application that uses AI to teach coding, and a digital workspace which connects brands in the media industry with local content creators. There is also a digital financial services solution that uses a social reputation score to provide formal financial services to those without access to a smartphone or bank account.

The Academy also runs other complementary innovation programm in Africa. The Africa Innovation Fellowship, in partnership with WomEng, aims to increase female participation in engineering innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent, and the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF) program, which supports innovators in 16 countries including Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. AS

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