A South African Entrepreneur Wins Prestigious Prize for Creating Medicine-dispensing Lockers

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A South African innovator has secured a prestigious prize for engineering in Africa by creating a smart locker system that enhances healthcare accessibility.

Neo Hutiri, the mind behind Pelebox, a system of internet-connected lockers facilitating the dispensing of medication for chronic conditions to patients, received a £50,000 ($63,000) award from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. Additionally, he was presented with a medal by Princess Anne, the sister of King Charles III, during a ceremony in London on Wednesday evening. This event commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the Academy’s esteemed Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, celebrating entrepreneurs who have devised technology to tackle local challenges across the continent, ranging from enhancing power accessibility to adapting to climate change.

In celebration of its anniversary, the Academy organized a special edition of its annual competition exclusively for its alumni. From six countries that have engaged in its training program over the past decade, 12 innovations were shortlisted. Following a pitching session at yesterday’s event, a panel of six judges selected a winner. The standard Africa Prize iteration is set to proceed in June, where four finalists will compete for a £25,000 ($31,600) prize.

Hutiri initially secured the Africa Prize in 2019 for his locker system while running a pilot program for the Pelebox concept. Since then, the startup has experienced substantial growth, with the innovation now deployed in 123 healthcare facilities across South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana.

“Winning the Africa Prize helped open a lot of doors, gave us good recognition, changed a lot of ‘noes’ into ‘yesses,’ and ultimately provided us with the audience we’re looking for,” he stated to CNN. He anticipates that the prize money from 2024 will act as a catalyst for the company’s continued expansion.