• Egyptian wins US$100,000 African Innovation Prize

    Hazem Badr


[CAIRO] An Egyptian engineer who has designed a base-station antenna that can facilitate upgrades to more advanced mobile networks in developing countries has become the first winner of the Innovation Prize for Africa, which was created last year.

The antenna makes it easier for telecommunication service providers to upgrade their networks without needing to change base stations.

The winner of the US$100,000 prize, Mohammed Sanad, a professor at the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, Egypt, said his antenna "suits developing countries, which don't have a telecommunication infrastructure".

"Conventional cellular base stations cannot be assembled and disassembled on site. They are heavy and need complicated mounting towers," Sanad told SciDev.Net. He said the new antenna suits all generations of wireless applications without any need to change or upgrade.  

Sanad said he has received many offers to roll out the new antenna in Africa, in the wake of the prize ceremony in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (26 March).

The runner up, Zeinou Abdelyamine, an industrial chemist from Algeria, received US$50,000 for his research and development of environmentally friendly, natural insecticides and rodenticides.

His products contain natural elements which attract insects and rodents, but are fatal when consumed.

"Our work proves that Africa can develop new technology and can solve her problems by herself," Zeinou told D'Jazair News.

The Prize, which aims to stimulate innovative solutions with strong commercialisation potential, was established bythe UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Innovation Foundation in 2011.

The inaugural winners were selected from 458 submissions from 38 countries, with most applications coming from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Other shortlisted projects included the iCow application to aid small-scale farmers, and solar powered lanterns aimed at poor rural communities.

See below for a video interview with Mohamed Sanad:

See below for a video interview with Zeinou Abdelyamine: