By Nnamdi Odumody
A 31 year old South African electrical engineer, Neo Hutiri, is the winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Africa Prize For Engineering Innovation first prize of 25,000 pounds for his solution Pelebox, a smart locker system for dispensing drugs to patients suffering from chronic health conditions. Pelebox is used at public healthcare facilities in South Africa and has helped in reducing the number of patients on long queues thereby easing pressure on the healthcare system.
Pelebox is a simple wall of lockers controlled by a digital system. Healthcare workers stock the lockers with prescription refills, log the medicines on the system, and secure each locker. It then sends patients a PIN which is used to open their locker to access medication. Patients access their medicine within 36 seconds which is quicker in contrast to the average 3.5 hours it takes in other healthcare facilities. This is significant considering the fact that South Africa has the world’s biggest antiretroviral therapy programme with more than 4.7 million patients receiving monthly treatment from public healthcare facilities.
As a result of mentoring received from the Africa Prize For Engineering Innovation, Hutiri and his team made a redesign from product development to manufacturing. Also, they have obtained a trademark for Pelebox.
Three runners up received 10,000 pounds each, and they include:
Kaoshi by Chukwunonso Arinze and Princess Oti from Nigeria. They have a peer to peer currency exchange designed for African banks to enable their customers send money out of Africa in a cheap and convenient way.
Smart Havens Africa by Anne Rweyora from Uganda which builds sustainable smart homes from affordable and appropriate technologies designed to make home ownership more accessible to African women.
Sign-IO by Roy Allela from Kenya. The solution is a mobile app with smart gloves that tracks and translates sign language movements into speech and text in real time.
Pelebox is an innovation which will go a long way in fixing a friction associated with the African public healthcare system.