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African Ingenuity

Egypt, Uganda and Liberia take the top prize for Innovation at the 2017 IPA

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

The sixth edition of the coveted IPA culminated with a bang in July as the AIF awarded three more African innovators for their incredible innovations. Out of the total of over 2500 applications, 10 nominees were selected, and from these Aly El-Shafei of Egypt emerged as the Grand Prize winner, with Philippa Ngaju Makobore of Uganda landing the Second Prize, and Dougbeh-Chris Nyan of Liberia winning the Special Prize for Social Impact. Each one of the seven remaining nominees also went home with a US$ 5 000 voucher to be used to further develop their innovations. Moreover, all nominees and winners will benefit from IPA post prize activities aiming at moving their innovations to the next level.

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2017 Winners

Grand Prize Winner – $100,000

Dr. El-Shafei (Egypt)

The main obstacle in increasing electricity generation capacity in Africa continues to be the high cost of producing electricity, which is forcing governments to subsidize consumption. Dr. El-Shafei’s innovation, Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuator Journal Integrated Bearing (SEMAJIB), 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. This technology is patented in the US since 2010 and a newer version is patent-pending also in the US.

Prof. Aly El-Shafei received his bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Cairo University, Egypt, and his Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) all in Mechanical Engineering. Dr. El-Shafei is a recipient of several grants and awards.

2nd Prize Winner – $25,000

Philippa Ngaju Makobore (Uganda)

Electronically Controlled Gravity Feed Infusion Set (ECFG) by Philippa, who bagged the Second Prize of US$ 25 000, is designed to accurately administer intravenous (IV) fluids and drugs by controlling the rate of fluid flow based on feedback from a drop sensor. It is easy to operate and has key safety features, which include alarms for rate of infusion (rapid or slow), total volume (over or under), and faulty sensors.

A battery utilizing a hybrid (AC mains and solar) charging bed powers the device. IV infusions are critical for both adults and children in various situations. Over 10% of children admitted to East African hospitals need immediate infusion therapy. Findings from the FEAST trial indicate that over-infusion in children increased the absolute risk of death by 3.3 % at 48 hours. Erroneous delivery rates can result in serious adverse effects. The ECGF has the potential to save lives by providing accuracy and safety at 8% the cost of a brand new infusion pump.

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Philippa Ngaju Makobore has a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alberta, Canada, and a professional certificate in Embedded Systems Engineering from the University of California, Irvine, USA. She is a recipient of numerous healthcare awards.

Social Impact Prize Winner – $25,000

Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan (Liberia)

Dr. Dougbeh, who was awarded the Special Prize for Social Impact of US$25 000, developed a rapid test that can detect and simultaneously differentiate at least three to seven infections at the same time. His diagnostic test is fast and easy to use in any setting and is able to detect and distinguish multiple infections that bear the same symptoms for instance, when a patient has yellow fever, malaria, and Ebola. Whereas most testing methods take three to seven days, this device gives test results in ten to forty minutes.

Dougbeh is currently working on the second prototype of his innovation after obtaining positive results from his first prototype. The results have been validated with human clinical samples, peer-reviewed, and published in several respected scientific journals such as “Nature-Scientific Reports.” His innovation has the potential of being a game-changer in the continent in the detection and management of infectious diseases for quality patient care.

Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan, is a medical doctor, a biomedical research scientist, an inventor, and a social activist at the same time. He studied zoology and chemistry at the College of Science and Technology of the University of Liberia and earned a degree in human-medicine (infectious diseases) from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Medizinische Fakultät – Charité in Germany. He was later trained as a biomedical scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA.

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