Local Boy Makes It to Regional Engineering Prize Finals

A TANZANIAN engineer is among four finalists for the African Prize for Engineering Innovation, which is sponsored and run by the British Royal Academy of Engineering.

A statement sent to the 'Daily News' from South Africa noted that Dr Askwar Hilonga, a lecturer at Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology based in Arusha had presented a low-cost sustainable water filtration system.

Other shortlisted finalists are from Kenya (Samuel Wangui and his team who presented a SIM-card swapping service); Zambia (Musenga Silwawa and his team with spot fertiliser applicator) and South Africa (Ernest Pretoius with a fencemounted security system).

When contacted, Dr Hilonga described the achievement as a breakthrough for him, his community and the nation, noting that this would inspire the young, academics and students.

"This shows that it pays to use what we have learned to assist our societies to address challenges they are facing," he said.

He explained that what prompted him to come up with the project is the presence of contaminants in water that his society use, which has resulted to water born diseases.

A small study he did in one village showed that about 700,000 people suffered from water-borne diseases, which cost the government millions of shillings to provide treatment.

"Since our institution's motto encourages us to use our academic research to address problems affecting our societies, instead of publishing and then putting them on the shelves, I decided to turn my 33 publications on nano material to effective use, hence the water purifier," he explained.

According to the statement, the application process to the competition saw entries from 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, out of which 12 African entrepreneurs were chosen to receive a package of six months of business training and mentoring from the Academy.

"The four finalists showing the greatest promise have now been chosen and one of them has the chance to become the overall winner," the statement read in part.

The overall winner will win GBP25,000 when the first Africa Prize winner is announced in Cape Town on 1 June, this year, and GBP10,000 for each runner-up.

All four finalists will present their innovations to judges at the ceremony before the winner is selected. "The finalists are an example of African engineering innovation with remarkable potential.

Their revolutionary ideas will help boost the standard of living for many sub-Saharan Africans. I commend all entrants and finalists for their determination and tenacity," said Dr Bola Olabisi, Africa Prize judge and CEO of the Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network.

Africa Prize judge Stephen Dawson, a venture capitalist and chairman of Jacana Partners in the UK, said the four Africa Prize finalists represented a good cross-section of African engineering talent.