A 27-year-old Nigerian systems engineer has won the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.Godwin Benson designed Tuteria, an online platform that links students to qualified tutors in their area and within their budget. Users find the skill they want to learn on an app on their phone, set their budget, and wait to be connected to the nearest tutor.
Benson wins £25,000. At the awards ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya on 23 May 2017, the four finalists delivered presentations, before Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most promising engineering innovation.
Benson developed the platform based on the experiences he had as a young tutor. An important part of the service is that both students and teachers are thoroughly vetted before being allowed to use the platform.
The scope of skills on offer ranges from learning to play the piano, sew clothes, learn a new language and more. Tutors also cover a range of academic subjects for all ages.
The platform has a ratings system, and students book lessons using an upfront online payment system. Tutors are paid once the lessons have been confirmed, and Tuteria takes 15 to 30% commission for each paid lesson.
Sixteen shortlisted Africa Prize entrants, from eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa, received six months training and mentoring during which they learned to develop business plans and market their innovations. The group received coaching on communicating effectively, focusing on customers and approaching investors with confidence.
“Godwin Benson’s Tuteria invention changes the way Nigerians – and Africans – share knowledge and skills with one another. We’re proud to have him as our third Africa Prize winner, and we trust Tuteria will go on to change the lives of millions of people who are eager to learn and develop new skills,” said head judge Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng.
“His engineering innovation is not only new technology, but also a new way of thinking about education. Benson has successfully incorporated the training of the past six months into his project, and we are eager to watch Tuteria grow on the continent.”
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers, from all disciplines, to develop local solutions to challenges in their communities. The Prize selects a shortlist of innovators from across the continent and provides training and mentoring to help turn engineers with incredible ideas into successful entrepreneurs.
Launched in 2014, the Prize aims to stimulate, celebrate and reward engineers who have developed innovations that will benefit Africans.
The three runners up, who each win £10,000, are:
- Andre Nel from South Africa for the GreenTower Microgrid system, which reduces the energy used to heat water by 90%. A single unit can service 15 homes and reduce electricity demand from a community by 65%.
- Hindu Nabulumba from Uganda for the Yaaka Digital Learning Network, which teachers and students can use to share academic knowledge and materials.
- Kelvin Gacheru from Kenya for the Mobi-Water system, which allows water tank users to monitor and control the water in their tanks remotely using a mobile phone. Users will be able to save more than 30% of their water.
Benson commented: “I am so humbled and grateful to the Academy for the training and support. It’s such a vote of confidence to be chosen out of sixteen such incredible businesses – we will do the Africa Prize proud!”
Africa Prize judge Rebecca Enonchong said: “Education is one of the best investments we can make in our communities, and Godwin’s innovation has amazing potential for the continent. We urge him to keep persevering. We can’t wait to see how Tuteria grows.”
The fourth Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is now open. Individuals and small teams living and working in sub-Saharan Africa, and who have an engineering innovation, are invited to enter. Potential entrants can find more information here. The deadline for entries is 24 July 2017.
The Africa Prize is grateful to the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund, a founding sponsor of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, who have come on board as the headline sponsor for the next three years of the Prize.