Winner announced in Africa Engineering prize

Cape Town - The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has awarded a winner in the continent-wide competition to find the best new technologies that can impact on development.

At a Cape Town hosted event to announce the winners, Tanzanian Dr Askwar Hilonga earned first prize.

"We are empowering them [university students] to come with innovations that can impact their communities. I can't imagine the explosion because of this [prize], because now they see it's a reality," said Dr Askwar Hilonga in his acceptance speech.

Hilonga is from the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science & Technology in Tanzania and invented a low-cost water filtration system that utilises sand-based water filters and nanotechnology.

He beat out finalists Ernst Pretorius from Pretoria who invented a low-cost fence-mounted security system, Musenga Silwawa from Zambia with his spot fertiliser applicator and Samuel Wangui from Kenya for a SIM-card swapping service.

For 38 year-old Hilonga though, the prize is confirmation that the engineering challenges in Africa can be solved by young people.

Workable solutions

"I hope this will inspire many university students and young academics - I don't talk much about old people. It will transform Africa in this generation," he said to audience laughter.

The inventions represent more than the potential to solve some of Africa's most acute problems. They have the potential to make a global impact.

"There's no reason at all why these technologies if successful here in their home ground, as it were, couldn't become much more widely applicable," Malcolm Brinded chair of the judging panel told Fin24.

Watch how Dr Askwar Hilonga talks about what the prize means to him in this exclusive News24 Live video:

He said that many of the technologies offered workable solutions even if they still in their infancy and required both funding and expertise to become commercially viable success stories.

In particular, Brinded highlighted South Africa's Pretorius for a technology that could play an important role in combating crime on farms and in rural areas.

"It's a great technology breakthrough; absolutely applicable to security around farms, around game reserves, around borders globally. It's much cheaper than electric fencing," he said about the Fence Sitter.

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, which is an initiative of the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, now enters its second year and calls on innovators in Africa to submit their entries by June 29, 2015.

Local solutions

For his work, Hilonga wins £25 000, and runners-up Pretorius, Silwawa and Wangui each walk away with £10 000.

Inventors also receive mentoring and support in order to facilitate the development of their respective technologies to commercial viability.

Hilonga echoed US President Barack Obama, saying that the prize demonstrates that African problems can be solved in Africa.

"Yes, we can. It is possible."

Watch Malcolm Brinded explain how the Africa Prize for Engineering can make an impact in this exclusive News24 Live video:

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