Brian Gitta, a 24-year-old Ugandan engineer has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, making him the first Ugandan and youngest recipient of the prize. Gitta and his team won for their invention, Matibabu, a device which tests for malaria without drawing blood. Alongside the honour of winning the Prize, Gitta will receive UK £25,000.
Matibabu, which means “medical centre” in Swahili, is a low-cost, reusable device that clips onto a patient’s finger, requiring no specialist expertise to operate. The results are available within one minute on a mobile phone that is linked to the device. A red beam of light shone through the user’s finger detects changes in the shape, colour and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria. Matibabu is aimed at individuals, health centres and diagnostic suppliers. The team also aims to set up the device on the streets to allow people to do a single test at a time. The team has already been approached by international researchers as a result of the Prize.
The team created the device as a result of the prevalence of malaria in Uganda, a disease that deeply affects many of the country’s residents. “We are very proud of this year’s winner. It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development – in this case by improving healthcare,” said Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize judge. “Matibabu is simply a gamechanger.”
The Africa Prize:
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. It encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers, from all disciplines, to develop innovations that address crucial problems in their communities in a new, appropriate way.
Sixteen shortlisted Africa Prize entrants, from seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, received six months training and mentoring during which they learned to develop business plans and market their innovations. The group received coaching on communicating effectively, focusing on customers and approaching investors with confidence.
The three runners up, who each win £10,000, are:
- Collins Saguru, a Zimbabwean working in South Africa, for AltMet, a low-cost, environmentally friendly method for recovering precious metals from car parts
- Ifediora Ugochukwu from Nigeria, for iMeter, an intelligent metering system that gives Nigerian users transparency and control over their electricity supply
- Michael Asante-Afrifa, from Ghana, for Science Set, a mini science lab that contains specially developed materials for experiments
Gitta is incredibly proud and grateful to have been chosen. He says, “We are incredibly honoured to win the Africa Prize – it’s such a big achievement for us, because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators. The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities – which is what we need most at the moment.”
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