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Innovation in Africa is alive and well: IPA announces its 2013 finalists

The Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) is a big deal. The joint initiative between the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF), awards a first prize of US$100 000 for the best African innovation with the greatest social impact and clear business potential.

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The finalists for 2013 has been announced and looking at this year’s crop, one thing is abundantly clear, there is no shortage of innovators in Africa. Entrepreneurs developed ten practical solutions to some of the continent’s most intractable problems. Chosen from more than 900 applications from 45 countries, the finalists for the IPA 2013 provide practical examples of Africa’s investment potential.

Because of the social impact criteria, the finalists do not have traditional consumer facing commerce products. Instead, the entrepreneurs are using technology in innovative ways to solve pressing African problems.

From Tunisa to South Africa, the IPA 2013 finalists are leaders in the areas of agriculture, environment, health, ICT and manufacturing.

Take a look.

  • Zero-Blade Wind Convertor (Tunisia) — Innovators Hassine Labaied and Anis Aouini from Saphon Energy, a Tunisian R&D start up, developed a wind turbine with no blades that does not rotate – it uses sailboat technology to create cost-effective energy through a back-and-forth 3D motion.
  • SavvyLoo (South Africa) — Innovator Dr. Dudley Jackson developed a waterless toilet for rural areas and temporary settlements that separates liquids from solids to improve environmental impact, decrease the potential for disease, reduce odour and ensure easier removal.
  • The TBag Water Filter (South Africa) — Innovator Prof. Eugene Cloete created a water filter that uses electrospun tea bag material to ensure one litre of the most polluted water is 100 percent safe to drink.
  • The Malaria pf/PAN (pLDH) Test Kit (South Africa) — Innovator Ashley Uys created a new rapid malaria test that indicates within 30 minutes if treatment is effective. The test kit is one of only nine developed globally and is the only test of its kind fully-owned by an African company.
  • The Fonia Husker Machine (Senegal) — Innovator Sanoussi Diakite developed an electric and thermal powered machine that husks 5 kilograms of fonia – a West African cereal – in just 8 minutes.
  • Novatech Construction Systems (Cameroon) — Innovator Njokikang Faustinus created an efficient construction process. Its flagship product is a manual brick press that more easily produces 3,000 interlocking bricks per day.
  • Mobenzi (South Africa) — Innovator Andi Friedman and his team has developed a software that provides mobile data collection and field research solution, allowing sophisticated forms of research to be conducted across Africa online or via mobile phones.
  • Mimosa for Solar Powered Production (Nigeria) — Innovator Justus Nwaoga developed a new way to collect renewable solar energy by using the mimosa pudica weed, an organic African medicinal plant.
  • Agroforestry Model Farm (Sudan) — Innovator Muna Majoud Mahoamed Ahmed created an agro-foresty model farm in Khartoum that produces innovative sources of income from moringa leaves, seeds and jatrofa seeds.
  • AgriProtein (South Africa) — An innovative team of researchers from AgriProtien Technologies developed a new source of animal feed protein that lowers the cost of feed for African producers and farmers.

The winners of the IPA 2013 will be announced at a gala dinner on 7 May in Cape Town hosted by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business and the Sekunjalo Development Foundation. The winner will receive US$100 000 for the best innovation based on marketability, originality, scalability, social impact and clear business potential. A runner up will receive US$25 000 for the best commercial potential and another finalist will receive US$25 000 as a special prize for social innovation.

“As global leaders gather for the World Economic Forum on Africa to discuss approaches to deliver on Africa’s promise, these innovators demonstrate that the best way to build Africa’s capacity is to invest in local innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, a co-founder of the African Innovation Foundation and the IPA.

The prize encourages Africans to develop creative ways to overcome everyday challenges.

“We see a strong trend emerging of innovations that have significant social impact for Africa,” said Dr.Francois Bonnici, Director Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.

The IPA selection committee represents private equity investors, seed funders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and development leaders who are looking for ideas that move Africa forward.

The call for applications for IPA 2014 will be announced in July 2013. For detailed information of competition categories, conditions of entry, and submission details check out

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