Africa Engineering Prize shortlists an Ethiopian innovator

This year’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation shortlist an Ethiopia innovator Pazion Cherinet, who introduced Orbit Health – a digital health platform that manages patients’ data.

Orbit Health manages and stores patient data, including appointments, diagnoses, tests, doctors’ notes and prescriptions. By providing healthcare facilities with constantly updated, always available virtual copies of patient data, Orbit Health enhances the continuity of care provided to patients. Systems are customised to the needs of each healthcare provider, in contrast to generic systems that don’t cater for the nuances of different health services.

Systems engineer Pazion Cherinet recalls waiting for hours with a family member at a clinic in Ethiopia and noticing the lack of adequate healthcare documentation. Cherinet realised that others in his community could be spared this experience by simply developing a centralised database of all patient files.

The fully interoperable platform combines different workflows, including wards, operating rooms, laboratory and imaging tests, and dispensaries, into a single report. This means that the loss of patient records is completely avoided.

In the last four years, Orbit Health has managed more than 300,000 active patients, digitised 270,000 patients’ data, scheduled 80,000 appointments, identified 70,000 diagnoses, recorded 130,000 digital notes, managed 40,000 lab and imaging orders, and dispensed more than three million units of medication through the digital health platform.

In addition to an Ethiopian Innovator, this year’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has also shortlisted inventors from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and The Gambia.

The Africa Prize, run every year by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering, awards crucial commercialisation support to ambitious African innovators who are transforming their communities through scalable engineering solutions. The 2021 shortlist represents nine countries including, for the first time, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ethiopia and the Gambia. Six of the 16-strong shortlist are female innovators.

The programme has a track record of identifying engineering entrepreneurs with significant potential, many of whom have gone on to achieve greater commercial success and social impact.

A unique package of support – running from December 2020 to July 2021 – is being provided to the shortlisted innovators to help them accelerate their businesses. The benefits of selection include comprehensive and tailored business training, bespoke mentoring, media and communications training, funding and access to the Academy’s network of high-profile, experienced engineers and business experts based in the UK and across Africa, as well as access to the alumni network after the programme concludes. This year marks the first fully digital programme, providing intensive expert guidance and community support through a mixture of online group and one-on-one sessions.

Following this period of support, four finalists will be selected and invited to pitch their improved innovation and business plan to the judges and a live audience. A winner will be selected to receive £25,000, and three runners up will receive £10,000 each.

Emma Wade Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa at the UK Department for International Trade said: “It makes me very proud to be part of this initiative that demonstrates so clearly and practically the power of partnerships between Africa and the UK. The range of innovations and innovators in this year’s shortlist offer an insight into Africa’s extraordinary diversity and talent and illustrate the importance we all place on nurturing and supporting Africa’s self-starters to create and scale sustainable and inclusive products and services that will help us rebuild our economies to be greener, cleaner and more resilient.

“The Africa Prize helps to accelerate entrepreneurial capacity and ecosystems. I am excited to follow the progress of this year’s cohort, and am certain we will see many of these inventions go on to create and sustain jobs and benefit our societies, as so many of the previous participants in the Africa Prize have done.”

Alumni of the Prize are projected to impact over three million lives in the next five years and have already created over 1500 jobs and raised more than $14 million in grants and equity.

Africa Prize alumni have also played an important role in supporting the continent’s COVID-19 pandemic response, with the programme’s training and additional Academy funding helping them pivot their businesses and address community needs. Together, they reached over 220,000 people with innovations including affordable hand sanitizer, remote education, 3D-printed PPE, access to finance for smallholder farmers and a track and trace platform allowing worshippers to attend religious services.