Egyptian Aly El-Shafei was last night awarded the Innovation Prize for Africa‘s grand prize of $100 000 for his innovative magnetic bearings which help increase energy generation. The competition is run by the African Innovation Foundation.
Shafei (pictured above), whose prize was presented by the President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo at a ceremony at Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana, said he plans to use the prize money to further develop his product which he patented in the US in 2010.
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Instead of the normal oil bearing, his patented innovation – SEMAJIB – includes a magnetic bearing embedded in the oil bearing, which will reduce the need for substantial maintenance.
He said the device would help produce more electricity for Africa
“A one percent increase of electricity in Africa would produce a 0.8% increase in the GDP. So this actually translates to money, it translates to opportunities for people to do, it translates to energy for the whole environment and would help us with some of the most prominent problems in Africa,” said El-Shafei.
He told Ventureburn that he had already attracted interest from Siemens, with which he has signed a non-disclosure agreement, and interest from General Electric. Added to this the Egyptian electricity ministry have also expressed interest and have asked for funding from the country’s science and technology ministry.
Aly El-Shafei’s SEMAJIB will help lower the cost of producing electricity in Africa
He said so far he has also received €240 000 of funding from the EU’s Research, Development and Innovation Programme in 2009, while in 2013 he landed $100 000 in funding from Egypt’s Science and Technology Development Fund.
El-Shafei said he currently owns a company which houses the inventions, but that he is seeking investors to fund the US$4-million he needs to develop an industrial prototype for his product.
Runner-up Philippa Ngaju Makobore from Uganda took home $25 000 for her electronically controlled gravity feed infusion set. Dougbeh-Chris Nyan from Liberia won $25 000 by clinching the special prize for social impact for his new technology for rapid detection of infections using one test.
This year’s competition garnered 2 530 submissions from 48 countries.
In his address during the award ceremony, Akufo-Addo, who assumed office in January, said his government is seeking to boost innovation in Ghana through a number of measures.
These include among other things: the establishment of a science, technology and innovation advisory council; the establishment of a technology commercialisation unit and funding of at least one percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development and the setting up of a science and technology fund.
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Featured image: Aly El-Shafei