What kind of innovations does the Africa Prize accept?
Entrepreneurs are invited to apply with innovations from any engineering discipline that can provide scalable solutions to local challenges.
Applicants should be in the early stages of commercialising an engineering innovation that:
- is accompanied by an ambitious but realistic business plan that has strong commercial viability
- has strong potential to be replicated and scaled up
- will bring social and/or environmental benefits to a country or countries in sub-Saharan Africa
- is based in, and will benefit, a country in sub-Saharan Africa.
The innovation can be any new product, technology or service, based on research in any field of engineering, including:
- agricultural technology
- chemical engineering
- civil engineering
- computer science
- design engineering
- electrical and electronic engineering
- materials science
- mechanical engineering
- medical engineering.
If you have questions about whether your innovation would be considered as engineering, please contact the Africa Prize team to discuss your application at email@example.com
For more information, have a look at the Africa Prize interactive tool which showcases all current and previous shortlisted innovations.
We do not accept:
- innovations that are still at idea stage
- innovations that are designed for military purposes or purely for economic gain.
What is the review process for Africa Prize applications?
All applications for the Africa Prize are first checked for eligibility by Academy staff. Eligible applications are sent to a pool of technical expert reviewers, who are specialists in the application's field of engineering. Each application is reviewed by two technical specialists. The top applications from the technical review will be sent to the Africa Prize judging panel. The judges choose the shortlist of up to 16 applicants. Sometimes, some candidates may be contacted for further information that is required by the judges before they make their decision. All applicants will be notified of their application outcome by the end of November 2022.
The shortlisting process will consider:
- adherence to all entry and eligibility requirements
- the relevance and viability of the engineering innovation
- the potential social, economic or environmental benefit of the innovation
- the extent to which the innovation can be replicated and scaled-up
- the individual's, or team's, entrepreneurial potential.
If I am shortlisted, will I need to travel?
The training and mentoring for the Africa Prize shortlist is mostly carried out remotely (online), so you do not need to spend a long time away from home and you can continue to run your business.
Usually, the Africa Prize includes up to three weeks of residential in-person training in the UK and different countries in Africa. Because of COVID-19, we cannot yet confirm whether we will hold the Africa Prize 2023 training and final event in person. However we intend to do so if possible.
Please note that if you are required to travel for a residential training week or event, the Academy will cover the related costs.
Who are the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation judges?
The Africa Prize judges are an international panel with expertise in engineering, entrepreneurship, innovation and investment:
- Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng (Chair) – Chair of Engineering UK, Past President of the Energy Institute
- Dr Ibilola Amao – Principal Consultant of Lonadek Global Services
- Dr John Lazar CBE FREng – Chair of Enza Capital, What3Words and Raspberry Pi Foundation
- Rebecca Enonchong – Founder and CEO of AppsTech and I/O Spaces
- Dr Alessandra Buonfino, Senior Adviser, Global Innovation Fund; Consultant; International Research Fellow, Said Business School, Oxford University
Can applications be submitted in any language?
Applications for the Africa Prize must be submitted in English. Applications submitted in any other language will be considered ineligible and will not be reviewed. Africa Prize training will take place in English, so it is important that shortlisted applicants have a good understanding of English. We do, however, encourage those with English as a second language to apply.
My internet is sometimes unstable, am I still eligible to apply?
The Africa Prize team will support applicants where possible to ensure an unstable internet connection isn't a barrier to the programme. If you think you will have a problem connecting to the online training, please notify us in the 'Special assistance' field in section one of the application form.
I was unsuccessful last year, can I apply again?
We encourage previous applications to submit a new application each year, using previous feedback provided by the technical reviewers and judging panel
I have previously been on the shortlist, can I apply again?
No. Applicants who have made it to the shortlist in a previous round of the Africa Prize are not eligible to apply again. This is because they have already benefited from training and other opportunities while being part of the shortlist. Co-founder or other team members of the same innovation or business are also ineligible for the Africa Prize.
I have multiple innovations, can I apply more than once?
Applicants are welcome to submit more than one application per round for different innovations.
What support is available to the shortlist after the Africa Prize?
Shortly after the Africa Prize final, the shortlist members are enrolled into the Africa Prize alumni network which is currently comprised of 130+ innovators across sub-Saharan Africa. The alumni receive exclusive opportunities for funding, development and guidance. Click here for more information.
What are the eligibility requirements?
- The application must be written in English.
- The applicant must have a high level of English language proficiency in order to participate fully in the programme as this is conducted entirely in English.
- The lead applicant must be over the age of 18 when applications close on 25 July 2023. There is no upper age limit.
- Previous shortlist members or winners are not eligible to participate in the programme again, nor is anyone who was involved in their team or innovation.
- Applicants can apply as an individual or as part of a team.
- The lead applicant must be a citizen of a country in sub-Saharan Africa*. For teams of two or more, the lead applicant (the person participating in training) must be a citizen of a country in sub-Saharan Africa*.
- The lead applicant must be ordinarily based in sub-Saharan Africa*; if based overseas, this must be temporary for studies or otherwise.
- The innovation must be based in a country in sub-Saharan Africa*.
- The lead applicant must have an engineering innovation, although they are not required to be an engineering graduate or student to apply.
- The lead applicant must provide a letter of support from a university, research institution, innovation hub or previous incubator programme. This can be as simple as stating that an individual studied at or was involved with that institution. If applicants are not affiliated with any organisation, another document proving the status of their organisation or innovation, such as a document of incorporation or patent certificate, may be used.
- Industrial researchers and establishments are not eligible.
- The innovation can be any new product, technology or service, based on research in engineering defined in its broadest sense to encompass a wide range of fields. This includes but is not limited to: agricultural technology, biotechnology, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, design engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, ICT, materials science, mechanical engineering, and medical engineering. If you are in any doubt that your area of expertise would be considered as engineering, please contact the Academy to discuss your application.
- The lead applicant must provide a letter of consent from the originators/collaborators of the IP to this innovation, where relevant.
- The lead applicant must provide a technical diagram and photo that showcases the technical aspects of the innovation as part of their application.
- Applicants should have developed, and be in the early stages of commercialising, an engineering innovation that:
- Will bring social and/or environmental benefits to a country/countries in sub-Saharan Africa*
- Has strong potential to be replicated and scaled-up
- Is accompanied by an ambitious but realistic business plan that has strong commercial viability.
- If the business is mainly based on developing innovative hardware, then applicants should:
- Have built one or more working prototypes that prove the technical concept and performance
- Have evolved the design ready for initial commercial production
- Have realistic cost and schedule estimates for manufacture
- Have clear evidence that an early version of their innovation is generating traction with a sufficient number of prospective customers to underpin for initial revenues and profitability
- If the business is primarily software/app based, then applicants should:
- Have developed a minimum viable product with demonstravle functionality
- Have clear evidence that the minimum viable product is generating traction with a sufficient number of prospective customers to underpin forecasts for initial revenues and profitability.
* For the purposes of the programme, the Academy’s definition of sub-Saharan Africa includes all countries defined by the African Union within Central, East, Southern, and West Africa. These are: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, eSwatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.