Why Can’t Rwandans Win £25,000 Prize From Royal Academy of Engineers?

Alex Makalliwa an Aeronautic Engineer also Kenyan, wants to build a battery-run 3-wheel car to solve transport challenges in Africa

For the past five years, no Rwandan project has convinced judges at a competition of the Royal Academy of Engineers, a British charity organization. This is good money innovative Rwandans should take seriously.

Projects developed by Ghanaians, Mozambiqueans , Ugandans and Kenyans have won the cash prize in the past competitions.

For example, a Kenyan national is sourcing for qualified engineers to help him build an electric 3-wheel vehicle that can be used for taxi commonly known as tuk – tuk in other parts of the world.

Alex Makalliwa an aeronautic engineer wants to create a product that would help humanity;  “a social product; cheap in cost, environment friendly in nature.”

Makalliwa, is founder of Kuza Automative and solar powered charging stations, a company operating from Nairobi, Kenya.

While speaking to KT Press on February 10 in Kigali, Makalliwa said he is looking for a huge electric component to build a tuk – tuk without engine and fuel tank, but a motor running on four batteries.

“The idea is flowing well in my mind because my education background gives me a greater understanding how the vehicle will look like and how much the project will cost me,” he said.

The engineer is already in touch with a company dealing with engine version of the tuk – tuks that he wants to convert into an electric vehicle.

He is also sourcing out best electrical engineers, ICT engineers and mechanical engineers to help him implement the project.

“I expect to have the first prototype in April and Rwanda is among my potential markets,” said Makalliwa.

Makalliwa is part of 16 African engineers that concluded a week long training in Kigali on February 10, to learn how to turn ideas into profitable ventures.

This series of training is organized every year by Royal Academy of Engineers, a British charity organization.

According to the academy, every year they call for application of engineering innovative projects.

Shortlisted candidates go through a series of training on how to write a profitable venture.

After training, a jury organizes projects’ presentation session and 4 winners are given a grant to implement their project.

The Africa Prize encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development.

Crucial commercialisation support is awarded to a shortlist of innovative applicants through a six-month period of training and mentoring. The winner gets £25,000 pounds and three runners-up get £10,000.

Even projects that are not rewarded get an opportunity of network with the academy’s facilitators who keep advising them on how to better their projects.

Solutions that cut across  

Besides Makalliwa, other innovations that were presented during the training bring practical solutions to their country in particular, but can be replicated in Rwanda and Africa at large.

Uganda’s Hindu Nabulumba has built an offline website providing academic content

Hindu Nabulumba, a Ugandan lady with Journalism background designed Yaaka Digital Learning Network, an offline web application that serves as social network and a learning tool for education purpose.

“It took us five years to build this system with content for nursery school to Senior six in Uganda, plus some university programs,” said Nabulumba.

The content includes texts, video and animations.

“We want to change the traditional teaching/learning whereby someone could learn something but does not have an idea how it works. For example, content on volcanic eruption is well understood when you include video and animation.”

Nabulumba and her team of 15 are planning to cross to Rwanda to get schools’ curriculum and include syllabus on their platform www.yaaka.cc for Rwandan students and lecturers.

At the same time, the team is working on a computer tablet design.

Already working in Rwanda is also HarvestRain water, an application by Aline Saraiva Okello, a Mozambican PhD student.

Okello designed this application downloadable on mobile phones with Android – or computers; it provides information on quantity of rainwater the rooftop of any house can provide on a monthly basis.

This helps house owner take informed decision on tanks and other equipment to buy. It has database on water equipment providers as well.

This, she said, can help to plan good use of rain water in domestic businesses.

Ghanaian Tiny David, a System Engineer designed SnooCodeRed – an offline address application

On his side, in two months Ghanaian Tiny David, a System Engineer will have included Rwanda on his SnooCodeRed, an offline address application.

The application that helps to locate any individual who wants a service – ambulance, restaurant, taxi.

It requires someone just to have a phone on, not necessarily connected to internet and is free for public use, but obtained on a license for service providers.

Comparing his system with available systems in Rwanda, Tiny said, “Ours is available without internet. From what I know, the existing systems here run on internet and are slow,” he said.

“Our system can locate someone in 0.014 seconds, compared to 540 seconds here.”

Since the last five years, no Rwandan project qualified to get Royal Academy of Engineers Prize.

Organizers said, there is need to make awareness of the prize in Rwanda, which pushed to carry the training in Kigali.




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