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Inventor's life-saving jacket comes out on top at palace

LIFESAVER: Turyabagye’s device, Mama-Ope, helps doctors identify pneumonia more quickly

A UGANDAN engineer and entrepreneur who has created a device that can help doctors identify and treat pneumonia has won an entrepreneurial competition hosted by the Duke of York.

Brian Turyabagye, 24, beat 14 other engineering entrepreneurs to take first place in Pitch@Palace Africa, hosted by the Duke of York at St James’s Palace. Pitch@Palace Africa offers innovative start-ups an opportunity to demonstrate their business ideas to a global audience of influencers who can help catapult them to the next level.

Established by Prince Andrew as a response to the shortage of engineers on the continent, the Pitch@Palace Africa competition has helped nearly 250 businesses grow in less than three years, with some enjoying global success.

During the event, each entrepreneur presented a pitch, which was then voted on by the audience. Turyabagye’s invention, Mama-Ope, is a biomedical smart jacket that helps doctors identify pneumonia more quickly and more accurately.

The smart jacket uses sensors to spot pneumonia three times faster than doctors. It also reduces the risk of human error by tracking sound patterns from lungs, body temperature and the rate of breathing.

INVENTOR: Brian Turyabagye

Once the diagnosis is made, the jacket transfers the data via Bluetooth to an app for analysis by a doctor. During his presentation event, Turyabagye said: “27,000 Ugandan children die annually from pneumonia, often because the disease is misdiagnosed. “With Mama- Ope, we can reduce the margin for human error and help doctors make faster, more accurate diagnoses.”

The second prize went to Kuza Automotive, a company that retrofits tuk-tuks (three- wheeled auto rickshaws) with solar-powered motors to replace polluting engines. Kuza Automotive founder Alex Makalliwa said Kuza’s tuk-tuks would cost US$1 (£0.80) a day to run compared with the US$4-a-day fuel used by a traditional tuk-tuk.

He added: “These electric tuk-tuks can significantly reduce the economic barrier to electric cars, and reduce the carbon footprint of some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.”
This year’s Pitch@Palace Africa featured the contenders for the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize 2017.

The Africa Prize encourages ambitious African engineers from all parts of the spectrum to develop solutions to local challenges. Everyone on the shortlist receives an intensive six-month period of training and mentoring, managed by the Academy.

The innovators shortlisted for 2017 have almost completed their mentorship and will compete again at the Africa Prize Final in Nairobi on May 23, when judges will choose the winner of the £25,000 prize, along with three runners-up, who will each receive £10,000.

Pitch@Palace Africa founder Prince Andrew said: “As Pitch@Palace expands around the world, I am determined to encourage ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African entrepreneurs, many of them engineers from all disciplines, to make use of their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges.”

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