WAGA Power Pack: A Tanzanian innovation has made it to the UK Royal Academy of Engineering shortlist of the 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.
Tanzania engineer Gibson Kawago is recycling laptop batteries to provide reliable and affordable power for electric bikes, power banks, solar lights, businesses and homes. His innovation is WAGA Power Pack.
The innovation is a response to Tanzania’s unreliable electricity supply and its impact on the economy, safety and health.
- Fifteen talented entrepreneurs shortlisted from Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe
- Shortlisted entrepreneurs provide innovative engineering solutions crucial to UN Sustainable Development Goals – addressing water, healthcare, agriculture, education, food security, waste, and energy challenges
- Innovations include a remote healthcare monitoring system improving rural healthcare, a low-energy low-pollution cooking stove, and accessible electric mobility solutions
The Tanzania engineer makes his WAGA Power Pack with recycled batteries bought from informal waste collectors, including women and youth, in five regions in Tanzania. The old batteries are charged then tested after two to four weeks to check if they can still hold a charge equivalent to the manufacturer’s standard. If a battery’s voltage has dropped, or if it is corroded, it is sent for electrochemical recycling.
Once assembled, the WAGA Power Pack is a set of lithium-ion battery packs with a strength of 12, 24 and 48 volts, suitable for different applications, such as powering lights, appliances and heaters. The Tanzania engineer then fuses the battery cells together with nickel strips, and connects to a battery management system with sensors to monitor performance and detect changes in temperature, current and voltage.
The recycled battery pack is enclosed in an aluminum case, with ports that can be connected to inverters, solar lamps and other chargers. The WAGA Power Pack Pro can be recharged in up to three hours and has a display showing when the pack needs charging.
Kawago, the Tanzania engineer currently buys commercial battery management systems, which are connected to a mobile app to enable users to monitor battery performance from their mobile devices. He aims to produce his own system in the future, and to start manufacturing his own lithium-ion batteries, allowing him to make different size battery packs.
“WAGA Power Packs provides power to homes, emits zero carbon into the environment, and allows businesses to keep operating after sundown. Depending on the size of the battery and its purpose, it can provide electricity for anywhere from 13 hours to one month. We are striving to change the lives of Tanzanians, particularly those in resource-scarce rural areas,” comments the Tanzania engineer Kawago.
Winners of the 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation
This year’s UK Royal Academy of Engineering shortlist is made up of 15 African entrepreneurs and their pioneering technologies aimed at environmental rehabilitation, education, and human health and safety.
The 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation shortlist represents ten African countries, including first timers Angola and Sierra Leone, and demonstrates the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and sustained economic development.
The UK Royal Academy of Engineering shortlist of innovations tackle challenges central to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, good health and wellbeing, and clean energy, good health and wellbeing, and quality education.
Several water innovations are featured in the shortlist Africa Prize Engineering Innovation, including a real-time water quality monitoring and control system, an acid mine drainage solution to recycle contaminated water for human consumption, a portable unit that uses fish waste to boost production of vegetables, and a water management system to prevent excess borehole pumping and drying out of aquifers.
Energy and environmental solutions also feature heavily in the shortlist, with a power pack with recycled laptop batteries to address unreliable power supply, converted motorbikes that run on batteries, an electric cargo bike with a battery-powered fridge to reduce post-harvest loss, a system to help prepare waste for recycling, a mobile machine to create interlocking compressed earth bricks, and an ecofriendly cooking stove that absorbs black carbon.
Additionally, several entrepreneurs shortlisted have pioneered solutions in health, safety and education, with a portable hysteroscopy device for simple examination of the uterus, a remote healthcare monitoring system that records and transmits patient data, a multi-strain probiotic to improve the gut health of chickens, a local rescue network connecting neighbours with the police, and a robotics learning tool for children.
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The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation
Launched in 2014, the UK Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is awarded annually by the Royal Academy of Engineering to ambitious African innovators creating local and scalable solutions to pan-African and international challenges.
The shortlist of winners of the Africa Prize Engineering Innovation will benefit from a unique package of support including business incubation, mentoring, fundraising and communications. The package also includes access to the Academy’s global network of high-profile and highly experienced engineers and business experts in the UK and Africa.
Four finalists will be chosen to pitch their innovations and business plans to Africa Prize judges at an event in Accra, Ghana on 6 July 2023. The winner will receive £25,000, and three runners up will win £10,000 each. An additional One-to-Watch award of £5,000 will be given to the most promising entrepreneur from the remaining shortlist.
This year’s shortlist Africa Prize Engineering Innovation join the Academy’s 134-strong Africa Prize alumni network, which includes innovators who have achieved significant commercial success and social impact across the continent following their participation in the Prize, such as 2022 winner Norah Magero, and her portable solar-powered fridge solution for transporting medicines.
Africa Prize alumni are projected to have an impact on more than three million people in the next five years, and have already created 3,585 jobs – including 1,766 for women and 211 for persons with disabilities – and raised more the USD 14 million in grants and equity funding, directly contributing to 12 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to developing African innovators and helping them to maximise their impact.
It gives commercialisation support to ambitious African innovators developing scalable engineering solutions to address local challenges, demonstrating the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development.
An eight-month period of tailored training and mentoring culminates in a showcase event where a winner is selected to receive £25,000 and three runners-up, each awarded £10,000. One shortlisted innovator will receive an award of £5,000 as ‘The One to Watch’.
To support innovation like the WAGA Power Pack by the Tanzania engineer, the Africa Prize is generously supported by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and The Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund.
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Shortlisted innovations and entrepreneurs:
- Affordable AMD Solution, Boitumelo Nkatlo, South Africa – A technology to treat acid mine drainage (AMD) using industrial waste to recycle contaminated water for human consumption.
- Aquaset, Obed Zar, Ghana – A smart water management system that monitors water levels in boreholes and water tanks, regulating the rate at which water is pumped and preventing pump breakdowns and water waste.
- Arobot, Cristovão Cacombe, Angola – A robotics learning tool for children that must be assembled and programmed to perform specific tasks.
- Digital Aquaponics, Flavien Kouatcha Simo, Cameroon – A portable fish farm that uses fish waste as a fertiliser to produce organic vegetables, enabling small-scale farmers to increase production.
- Electric Mobility, Chukwuemeka Eze, Nigeria – An e-mobility service that converts gas-powered three-wheel motorbikes to run on batteries, saving up to 60% on running costs.
- FlexiGyn, Edmund Wessels, South Africa – A portable device enabling gynaecologists to diagnose and treat uterine health issues without anaesthetic.
- MEDBOX, Emmanuel Ofori Devi, Ghana – A healthcare monitoring system that records a patient’s vital signs and transmits them to doctors who then provide remote medical advice.
- Multi-Purpose Earth Brick Machine, Fikru Gebre Dikumbab, Ethiopia – A manually-operated portable machine to make interlocking compressed earth bricks using 90%-95% soil and 5%-10% cement.
- ProbiGal, Dr Deon Neveling, South Africa – A host-specific multi-strain probiotic designed to promote gut health and prevent bacterial infections in chickens, reducing the need for antibiotics.
- Smart Green Stove, Margaret Yainkain Mansaray, Sierra Leone – An efficient non-electric cooking device designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health risks, slashing energy use by 70%.
- Smart Water Tech, Allen Chafa, Zimbabwe – A real time water quality monitoring and control system to address water borne diseases.
- ThinkBikes CoolMAX, Tolulope Olukokun, Nigeria – An electric cargo bike with a battery powered fridge to help Nigeria’s smallholder farmers get fresh food crops to market.
- WAGA Power Pack, Gibson Kawago, Tanzania – A power pack made with recycled laptop batteries to provide reliable and affordable power for electric bikes, power banks, solar lights, businesses and homes.
- Waste-to-Wealth Enhancer, Cletus Ekpoh, Nigeria – A four-part recycling system to help informal waste collectors.
- YUNGA, Anatoli Kirigwajjo, Uganda – A local digital network connected through a physical device utilising the Internet of Things to provide security at a low cost in under-resourced areas.
“Climate change is impacting Africa more severely than other continents, with agricultural production, food security and water resources being compromised, compounded by a weak adaptive capacity. This year, 11 of our innovations are contributing directly to environmental sustainability,” comments Rebecca Enonchong FREng, founder and CEO of AppsTech and Africa Prize judge.