South Africa’s Neo Hutiri Bags USD 32 K Africa Prize At The Royal Academy Of Engineering

By  |  June 6, 2019

Neo Hutiri, a 31-years old engineer has flown his country’s flag high after emerging the first South African winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize.

Following his win for the 2019’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, he bags home USD 32K for his innovation Pelebox.

“Hutiri is a deserving winner. Pelebox will improve healthcare for everyone using and working in a severely strained public healthcare system,” said Africa Prize judge, John Lazar.

Hutiri commented, “Winning the Africa Prize is a massive achievement for us. We can now ramp up our manufacturing efforts using the prize money. The networks we are part of will also be instrumental for the growth of our business.”

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation. Now in its fifth year, it encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers to develop innovations that address pressing problems in their communities in a new and appropriate way.

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The South African inventor was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January 2014 and that meant that he needed frequent medicines to find cure.

“During my treatment, my biggest challenge was the long waiting times at the clinic,I was losing over 3 hours on long queues with every visit. Most of the other patients that waited along with me had to miss work just to collect their medicine,” he says.

The long waiting time at the queue prompted the engineer to come up with Pelebox which is a smart locker system designed to dispense medicine to patients with chronic conditions.

Pelebox smart lockers enable patients to collect their repeat chronic medication in less than two minutes as opposed to waiting hours. It leverages on technology to better service delivery. Pelebox smart lockers can be placed at various locations such as shopping malls commuter nodes or at partner retail outlets.

More so, these digital boxes come in handy in a setting where a national health ministry needs to reach more people but is limited by the number of traditional healthcare facilities, staff shortages and higher patient volumes.

Patients use a one-time personal identification number (PIN) sent to their phones ahead of time to access their locker of medicines. The smart lockers are temperature-controlled and can serve between 70 and 300 patients.

The dispenser is stocked with medicines for patients with chronic conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis and diabetes which would require patients to collect medicines on a regular basis.

So far, the system is in use in six public clinics in South Africa’s Gauteng province and have had over 10,000 patient collections. “Eight more units are being manufactured and should be installed and operational within the next two months, also for Gauteng,” Hutiri says.

Three runners up each won USD 11.3K They are: Nigeria’s Kaoshi, a Mobile app that connects money senders across the globe, Uganda’s Smart Havens Africa sustainable smart homes built from appropriate and affordable technologies, designed to make home ownership more accessible to African women and Kenya’s Sign-IO, a mobile app with smart gloves that track and translate sign language movements into speech and text in real time.

Brian Gitta from Uganda was the winner of last year’s prize for his innovative product Matibabu. It allows users to detect malaria in their bodies, without any invasive method.

Featured Image Courtesy: Pelebox

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