Malawi’s Chaima up for prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Malawian Catherine Chaima and other African finalists will on Thursday (September 3) pitch their businesses for the chance to win £25,000 (K25 million) as the 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation in South Africa where UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge will speak at the online event.

Catherine Chaima developed Cathel, an affordable antibacterial soap made from agricultural waste and other plant-based extracts.
Catherine Chaima shortlisted for the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.
The Malawian developed Cathel, an affordable antibacterial soap made from agricultural waste and other plant-based extracts.

This is the first time that a Malawian has been shortlisted among the top 15, for her invention of an anti-bacterial soap made from natural agricultural waste and local ingredients using traditional knowledge.

The Africa Prize, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering (delivery partner of the Global Challenges Research Fund), awards support to ambitious African innovators developing engineering solutions to local challenges.

For the past eight months, 15 entrepreneurs from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Uganda have undertaken intensive training and mentoring from international business leaders and experts.

Acting UK High Commissioner to Malawi, David Beer, is quoted as saying in a statement made available to Nyasa Times that the Africa Prize is one of UK Government’s initiatives to support innovators across Africa.

“Scalable engineering solutions developed by ambitious African innovators who understand better the local challenges are key to achieving meaningful sustainable development.

“This is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation, and is yet again up for grabs as applications for 2021 are now open. I encourage Malawians to apply,” he said.

Chaima fact-file

Daughter to farming parents, Chaima grew up in rural Malawi, where groundnuts, cassava, banana and rice are popular crops.

Cassava peels and groundnut shells, however, pile up around farms as they are not seen as powerful composting material.

While banana leaves have many applications, the sheer volume of waste produced by this crop means mounds of dry leaves pile up.

As a chemical engineering student, Chaima focuses on re-purposing waste. During her final year, she turned her attention to the hidden properties of these agricultural by-products.

When she discovered that the leaves, shells and peels her parents threw away could be used to produce potassium hydroxide, the idea of Cathel soaps was born.

Cathel is an anti-bacterial soap created from natural agricultural waste and local ingredients using traditional knowledge.

Cathel soap — named after Catherine and her co-founder Ethel — also uses alternative anti-bacterial ingredients.

Several commercial soaps in Malawi rely on Triclosan, which not only kills harmful bacteria, but also bacteria required to maintain healthy skin.

For Cathel, the pair relied on traditional knowledge to identify natural ingredients such as Moringa, which has anti-bacterial properties.

Chaima hopes that the process she uses to make the soaps could establish an industry for agricultural waste to become a valuable commodity in Malawi.

Other African finalists

Other African contributors for the award included Jack Oyugi from Kenya on Aquaprotein — an affordable protein supplement for animal feed, made from invasive water hyacinth.

Richard Arwa from Kenya on CIST Ethanol Fuel — a clean cooking ethanol made from invasive water hyacinth.

Samuel Rigu from Kenya on Safi Organics — a novel process that turns crop waste into a range of affordable organic fertilizers.

Tracy Kimathi from Kenya on Tree-Sea.mals Mini-Grid — a solar system that powers communal refrigeration storage spaces in rural Kenya

Charlette N’Guessan from Ghana on BACE API — a system that uses live facial recognition technology to verify identities and prevent financial and online identity fraud.

Bernice Dapaah from Ghana on EcoRide — bamboo bicycles made by Ghanaian women and youth from sustainable materials and recycled parts.

Isaac Sesi from Ghana on GrainMate — a simple handheld meter to accurately measure the moisture content of grains to prevent rotting, insect infestation and quality reduction.

Josephine Godwyll from Ghana on Lab and Library on Wheels — a mobile, solar-hybrid cart with gadgets and e-learning resources to encourage reading and teach STEAM subjects in under-resourced schools.

Adrian Padt from South Africa on DryMac — a containerised drying system that uses burning biomass instead of electricity to dry and preserve crops.

Timothy Kayondo from Uganda on Eco Water Purifier — a digital system that turns bones, cassava peelings, coconut shells and other waste into an activated carbon water filter.

Dr William Wasswa from Uganda on PapsAI — a low-cost digital microscope slide scanner and platform that diagnoses and manages cervical cancer in resource-constrained areas.

David Tusubira from Uganda on Remot — a digital platform that connects to off-grid solar systems to allow users to manage and pay for them remotely.

Aisha Raheem from Nigeria on Farmz2U — tech solutions that help farmers and families prevent food waste and enhance nutrition.

Victor Boyle-Komolafe from Nigeria on Garbage In Value Out (GIVO) — automates and digitises the collection, processing and sale of recyclable materials.

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Precious N
Precious N
1 year ago

Congratulations dear Catherine. Keep on shinning brighter.

Angoni apaphata
Angoni apaphata
1 year ago

Wow….. Nkhani si koma izi..then might as well deliberately grow more crops so that we can produce more waste and kill two birds with one stone.

1 year ago

Way to go Malawian Youths in Universities and other Academic Institutions. Congratulations to Catherine and her friend Ethel. If it was another Country, regardless of whether she wins or not, she would have been given the Prize Money. But nkhwidzi, ugogodi, nkhanza, nsanje, etc does not allow any Malawian Institution or Government Official to recognize and reward such talent. A Malawi, timudziwe Yesu.

Akanatani Bauleni
Akanatani Bauleni
1 year ago

congratulations Catherine, whether you win the final prize or not, you are a star and please dont kill the dream let malawi and the world use your product

1 year ago

Correction to the above comment, it should read the sky is not the limit.

1 year ago

Congratulations are in order for the innovative lady of mother Malawi ,this achievement will go along way in motivating our wards and should make them understand that the sky is the limit.
Congratulations once again. Malawi is proud of you.

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