Norah Magero, a Kenyan innovator and engineer, became the first Kenyan and second woman to win the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2022 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation with Vaccibox, a small, mobile, solar-powered fridge that safely stores and transports medicines like vaccines, for use in field vaccinations and remote clinics.
Three out of every ten children in Kenya are not sufficiently immunized due to infrastructure and human resource issues. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the ongoing issues with several vaccine types with the cold-chain problems encountered by healthcare professionals and supply networks in distributing temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals.
“VacciBox was designed with our local challenges in mind. It’s versatile, reliable and localised. We’re ensuring that it works the way healthcare workers need it to work for the conditions they face each day, so that they can save lives without worrying about technology,” said Magero.
The compact, light-weight 40-liter VacciBox is convenient. For simple movement, it includes a telescoping handle and may be wheeled or mounted on a bike, motorcycle, or watercraft. In addition to a battery supply, mains and solar panel connectivity, and a charge controller that ensures stable power, a built-in thermostat and digital thermometer maintain the temperatures necessary for cold-chain medications. Blood and tissue may be transported, and it has remote monitoring capabilities to guarantee dependability.
“I’ve grown immensely and met such brilliant engineers and non-engineers doing amazing things through the Africa Prize,” said Magero. “This award will help us continue to develop Vaccibox to help get life saving vaccines to many more people.”
Magero was awarded the top prize of £25,000 (3,667,000 KES). On June 15, 2022, four finalists gave presentations at the virtual awards event. The Africa Prize judges and a live audience then cast their votes for the most promising technical invention.
“We’re delighted to award VacciBox the Africa Prize. The potential impact of improving the cold chain delivery of medicine – especially vaccines – to rural areas is immense,” said Alessandra Buonfino, Africa Prize judge. “Norah truly represents the idea that one innovator can change an entire community. We look forward to watching her and her team scale this innovation to reach even more people.”
The UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering established the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation in 2014; it is Africa’s largest award for engineering innovation and has a track record of discovering successful engineering entrepreneurs. It assists brilliant sub-Saharan African business owners with engineering breakthroughs that creatively solve pressing issues in their communities. It is now in its ninth year.