Bloodless malaria testing innovation wins Pitch@Palace Africa 2.0

Shafik Sekitto and the team behind Uganda-based start-up Matibabu have been announced as the winners of Pitch@Palace Africa 2.0 for a device that can test for malaria without drawing blood. The announcement was made at Pitch@Palace Africa 2.0, held at St James’s Palace on Wednesday 28 February.

Matibabu, which means ‘medical centre’ in Swahili, is a low-cost, reusable device that clips onto a patient’s finger and uses light to detect changes in the shape, colour and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria. Within one minute the test results are sent to a mobile phone linked to the device. Of the 400,000 deaths globally every year due to malaria, 90% are in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in children below five. Malaria kills more children under five in this region than HIV.

Pitch@Palace Africa is a collaboration between the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation and Pitch@Palace, an initiative founded by The Duke of York in 2014 as a platform to amplify and accelerate the work of Entrepreneurs. The event saw 15 of the engineering entrepreneurs shortlisted for the 2018 Africa Prize pitch their innovations directly to an influential audience from the worlds of entrepreneurship, technology, media and investment.

Following the audience vote, Charles Ofori from Ghana came second with Science Set, a mini science lab containing all the materials needed to carry out experiments in the school syllabus. In joint third place were Nnaemeka Chidiebere Ikegwuono from Nigeria with ColdHubs, a solar-powered walk-in cold room that extends the shelf life of perishable food tenfold, and Arthur Woniala from Uganda with Khainza Energy Gas, a cheap biogas made from manure and safe for household use.

The winner of Pitch@Palace Africa 2.0 has been invited to take part in Pitch@Palace Global in December 2018, which will bring together Entrepreneurs from Pitch@Palace events in countries across the globe.

Africa Prize judge and CEO of AppsTech, Rebecca Enonchong, said: “The calibre of entrepreneurs this year is extraordinary. The visibility that the entrepreneurs are receiving through Pitch@Palace Africa is invaluable in getting them traction, investment and customers.”

Pitch@Palace was set up by The Duke of York in recognition of the profound role entrepreneurship plays, and will continue to play, in the future of the UK and global economies. The initiative supports entrepreneurs by providing them with the opportunity to access mentors and advisers, distribution systems and supply chains, connections and investment. Since its launch in 2014, Pitch@Palace has helped over 490 start-up businesses, creating 1,865 new jobs and generating over £541 million of new economic activity.

Since its inception in 2014 the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has helped 56 ambitious and talented engineers from 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa to apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges.

The entrepreneurs from sub-Saharan Africa who took part in Pitch@Palace Africa 2.0 are currently part way through an intensive programme of training and mentorship delivered by the Academy. Each year, all shortlisted entrepreneurs receive six months of bespoke business mentoring, training, and networking opportunities, to enable them to turn their prototypes into profitable businesses with genuine economic and social impact.

In June 2018, the finalists will present their pitches at an event held in Africa, with a winner selected to receive £25,000 along with runners-up, who are each awarded £10,000.

The Africa Prize shortlisted entrepreneurs who took part in Pitch@Palace 2.0 are:

  • Alvin Kabwama from Uganda with UriSAF Maternal and Sexual Reproductive Health Care Kit, which tests urine quickly, accurately and affordably
  • Arthur Woniala from Uganda with Khainza Energy Gas, a cheap biogas made from manure and safe for household use
  • Shafik Sekitto from Uganda with Matibabu, a low-cost reusable device that tests for malaria quickly and accurately without drawing blood
  • Brian Mwiti Mwenda from Kenya with The Sixth Sense, a handheld echolocation device with ultrasonic sensors that alert visually impaired users to objects nearby
  • Collins Tatenda Saguru from South Africa with an economical, environmentally sustainable process to recover and re-use precious metals from cars
  • Daniel Taylor from Ghana with HWESOMAME, a low-cost smart sensor that accurately detects soil conditions and notifies farmers via text or phone call
  • Emeka Nwachinemere from Nigeria with Kitovu, an online platform that helps farmers in remote locations to increase crop yields and sell their produce
  • Esther Gacicio from Kenya with eLearning Solutions, an interactive online programme that hosts courses for individuals or serves as a tool for training institutions
  • Ifediora Emmanuel Ugochukwu from Nigeria with the iMeter and AMI solution, which gives electricity consumers and power utilities control over electricity use
  • Lawrence Okettayot from Uganda with Sparky Dryer, a low-tech dehydrator that dries fruit and vegetables to extend their shelf life and reduce food wastage
  • Charles Ofori from Ghana with Science Set, a mini science lab with all the materials needed to do the science experiments in a school syllabus
  • Monicah Mumbi Wambugu from Kenya with Loanbee, a mobile phone application that calculates the user’s credit scores and grants micro-loans
  • Nges Njungle from Cameroon with Muzikol, an online music marketing and social media app designed to meet all the career needs of musicians
  • Nnaemeka Chidiebere Ikegwuono from Nigeria with ColdHubs, solar-powered walk-in cold rooms that extend the life of perishable food tenfold  
  • Peter Kariuki from Rwanda with SafeMotos, an app that connects commuters to the safest motorcycle drivers in Kigali, Rwanda
  • Shalton Mphodisa Mothwa from South Africa with AEON Power Bag, which allows users to charge their phones on the go by converting radio waves and solar energy into power.

Notes to editors

1. About the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation. It encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers, from all disciplines, to develop local solutions to challenges in their communities. The Prize selects innovators from across the continent and provides training and mentoring to help turn engineers with incredible ideas into successful entrepreneurs.

Launched in 2014, the Prize aims to stimulate, celebrate and reward innovative engineers from across the continent.

The Africa Prize is generously supported by The Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund and the UK Government's Global Challenges Research Fund.

Judges of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation have provided over 1,200 hours of support to entrepreneurs since the prize was established – this equates to a value of over £630,000 in support. This year, they are:

  • Chair of Judges: Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng, President of the Energy Institute, Chair of EngineeringUK and trustee of the Shell Foundation
  • Mariéme Jamme, co-founder of Africa Gathering and founder of #iamtheCODE and SpotOne Global Solutions
  • Dr John Lazar CBE FREng, angel investor and technology start-up mentor
  • Dr Moses Musaazi, Senior Lecturer, Makerere University and Managing Director of Technology for Tomorrow Limited, Uganda

More information: The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

2. About Pitch@Palace. The Duke of York founded Pitch@Palace in 2014 to provide a platform to amplify and accelerate the work of Entrepreneurs. Since the initiative was set up, it has helped over 490 start-up businesses, creating 1,865 new jobs and generating over £541 million of new economic activity.

Pitch@Palace guides, helps and connects Entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses with potential supporters, including CEOs, influencers, angels, mentors and business partners. Pitch@Palace aims to: create introductions to Mentors and Advisers; through its Audiences, provide access to distribution systems and supply chains; make connections; and help with investment. Pitch@Palace Alumni companies include Blocks, Desolenator, Open Bionics, Appear Here and Grabble.

When they won Pitch@Palace 1.0, Blocks – the world’s first open hardware and software platform for wearable devices – had an idea for a transformative consumer product, without the experience or networks to bring it to market. Four years on from Pitch@Palace 1.0, they have launched the final product at CES 2018, in Las Vegas, one of the largest consumer electronics shows in the world.

One of the most notable success stories from Pitch@Palace is technology business Magic Pony, which met its investors through the programme. It sold to Twitter in June 2016 for a reported $150 million.

3. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

We have four strategic challenges:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
  • Address the engineering skills crisis
  • Position engineering at the heart of society
  • Lead the profession