By Amin Kef Sesay (Ranger)
Margaret Yainkain Mansaray, a Sierra Leonean energy practitioner and gender expert, is among the fifteen (15) that have been selected for the 2023 Africa Prize. The 15 African entrepreneurs and their pioneering technologies, aimed at environmental rehabilitation, education, and human health and safety were selected for the 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The 2023 shortlist represents ten African countries, including for the first time Angola and Sierra Leone, and demonstrates the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development.
Margaret created the Smart Green Stove to reduce the time girls and women spend cooking food, helping to mitigate energy poverty which is caused by energy poverty. Mansaray established Women in Energy, a Sierra Leone-based company, to launch her product and work to improve the lives of girls in her country.
Her stove comes with instructions for making Green Briquettes from trees like coconuts with high calorific content. The waste is carbonized by burning in a closed drum, then mixed with cassava starch to bind it, before being left to dry. Green Briquettes last longer than charcoal, reducing energy consumption. The stove can also be operated with ordinary charcoal or wood, but requires less fuel.
Smart Green Stove is an efficient non-electric cooking device designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health risks that disproportionately affect women and girls in Africa. It also saves time spent cooking and reduces energy use by 70%.
The stove burns briquettes made from recycled local materials such as coconut and jelly shells which are usually discarded. Its frame is made from recycled metal which houses a ceramic insulator made of clay mixed with waste coconut fibre and sawdust.
The insulator absorbs most of the heat and makes the stove nearly smokeless, reducing the soot which would otherwise be released into the environment and inhaled by those cooking a meal. Inhaling the smoke of typical cooking stoves while preparing a meal in one hour is equivalent to smoking four hundred cigarettes.
The chimney of the Smart Green Stove can be opened and closed to ensure efficient combustion, and to regulate temperature and minimize heat loss. The device is portable, suitable for indoor and outdoor use, and comes with a two-year guarantee, after which the insulator needs replacing.
It must be noted that the innovations shortlisted in 2023 tackle challenges central to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including quality education, clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, good health and wellbeing, and clean energy.
Launched in 2014, the Africa Prize is awarded annually by the Royal Academy of Engineering to ambitious African innovators creating local and scalable solutions to pan-African and international challenges. Innovators shortlisted for the Africa Prize will benefit from a unique package of support including business incubation, mentoring, fundraising and communications.
The package also includes access to the Academy’s global network of high-profile and highly experienced engineers and business experts in the UK and Africa.
In mid-2023 four finalists will be chosen to pitch their innovations and business plans to Africa Prize judges at an event in Accra, Ghana. The winner will receive £25,000, and three runners-up will win £10,000 each. An additional One-to-Watch award of £5,000 will be given to the most promising innovator.