In an attempt to recognize and promote both innovation and business leadership in Africa, the Royal Academy of Engineering has awarded chemical engineer, Tanzanian Askwar Hilonga for his innovative, low-cost sustainable water filter system.
The Nano-filters is aimed at helping the community centres become water hubs by filtering and selling water that is accessible to some of the most inaccessible and under-serviced communities in the region.
Hilonga’s project was chosen out of 12 African entrepreneurs who were all given a period of six months of business training and mentoring from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. Other finalists include: Ernst Pretorius from South Africa, behind the “Draadsitter”, Musenga Silwawa from Zambia who invented environmentally-friendly fertilizer applicator and Kenyan engineer Samuel Njuguna is the innovator behind “Chura”.
He said he was encouraged to develop the system by the desperate situation in some African regions where people are forced to buy expensive bottled water despite living right next to a water source. He will receive £25,000 to help get his business off the ground.
This is a solution, now my community and the whole Africa have the possibility to stop typhoid, to stop cholera, and stop water borne diseases by using low cost nano filters
Hilonga’s filter can be tailored to remove various types of pollutants based on the chemistry of the water source. It can efficiently remove heavy metals, minerals and biological contaminants, as well as pollutants from agriculture. His invention is said to help 70% of households in Tanzania.
According to the United Nations reports, about 115 people in Africa die every hour from drinking contaminated water and poor sanitation so, it was the life-saving potential of Hilonga’s invention that swayed the judges in his favor.
“His innovation could change the lives of many Africans and people all over the world,” said chief judge Malcolm Brinded.
“The finalists are an exemplar of African engineering innovation with remarkable potential,” said Bola Olabisi, Africa Prize judge and CEO of the Global Women Inventors Innovators Network. “Their revolutionary ideas will help boost the standard of living for many sub-Saharan Africans.
The judges’ task was complicated by the fact that each of the finalists was addressing a completely different challenge.
“Besides successful business, we were also looking for something that we think might make a real contribution to African development. Something that has the chance to succeed and scale while being applicable across many countries and making a real difference to the development,” Brinded explained.
The 11 runners-up reportedly received about R200 000 each, while the overall winner walked away with R450 000.