Five Years of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, Royal Academy of Engineering

Imagine my joy at meeting Adereni Abiodun, the founder of HelpMum, while he was in London last month attending the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019. He was one of over 250 new generation of engineering leaders brought together by the Royal Academy of Engineering for the summit. Adereni Abiodun is a 2016 alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. He is also the recipient of Google Impact Challenge prize, Nigeria of 2018. We met for a mentoring session in Willesden Green, London as he develops HelpMum, a social enterprise he founded in 2016. He shared with me his experience of the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019 on the theme of Engineering in an Unpredictable World, his learning, and networking.

In 2015, when at the Tony Elumelu Foundation we launched Africa’s most ambitious entrepreneurship programme to institutionalise luck and democratise opportunity, this is just the kind of impact we imagined our intervention would make. We set out to empower African start-ups like young Adereni Abiodun to take their business development training, mentoring, the seed capital, and exposure to Africa’s largest network of entrepreneurs to build game changing enterprises. I am proud that entrepreneurs like him have the confidence to apply and be selected for summits like the one organised by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019 is one of several programmes launched by the Royal Academy of Engineering. In March 2014, they launched The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation “to stimulate, celebrate and reward innovation and entrepreneurship across sub-Saharan Africa”. The Africa Prize has been very successful; providing training, mentoring and support to over 72 businesses over the last five years. Additionally, the Africa Prize is linked to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub which also provides pre-seed funding.

The Africa Prize encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan engineers from all disciplines to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the role that engineering plays in improving quality of life and economic development. The shortlisted engineers are given crucial commercialisation support with eight months of training and mentoring. Following this period of mentorship, finalists are invited to present their innovation at an event, where a winner is awarded £25,000 and three runners-up receive £10,000 each.

In the five years since its inception, the 72 innovative businesses supported by the Africa Prize have raised $1.5 million in grants and equity, over 71% of the alumni companies are generating revenues and are projected to impact 3 million lives in the next five years in Africa. I can attest to the value of the Africa Prize as several entrepreneurs who have passed through the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme have been selected and have won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. They include Charles Ofori Antipem, Dext Technology from Ghana who developed Science Set. You can watch his winning pitch, HERE, organised by the International Trade Centre, WEDF 2018, where I was one of the judges. Godwin Benson, founder of Tuteria, from Nigeria was a winner of the Africa Prize in 2017. There are many more, all listed in the beautifully produced book celebrating five years of the Africa Prize which you can download HERE.

The Africa Prize is a critical part of the global entrepreneurship ecosystem, paving the way for African innovators to showcase their ingenuity, giving them exposure to further opportunities for financing and growth; and equipping them to join the global networks of exceptional engineers. As the former CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the architect of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, I am deeply proud of empowering the next generation of African innovators, transforming the continent.  

Adereni Abiodun (HelpMum) told me that he was so impressed by his experience of being part of the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019 organised by the Royal Academy of Engineering that he will be applying for the Africa Prize in 2020. I wish him and others seeking this much coveted prize.

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