Circumstances beyond our control, sometimes drive innovation. Neo Hutiri was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January 2014. Spending long hours in the queue to collect his TB drugs from the hospital was his inspirational factor. The long wait propelled him to develop the Pelebox Smart Locker – a digital drug dispenser for hospitals.
Hutiri has won the £25,000 cash prize for the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK. Talented engineers from sub-Saharan Africa are honored for developing scalable solutions to local challenges.
Following a period of mentorship, finalists were invited to pitch ideas on the 4th of June 2019 and Neo emerged the winner. Neo Hutiri is the first South African to win the prestigious prize. The runners up are Kaoshi from Nigeria, Sign-IO from Kenya, and Uganda’s Smart Havens Africa. They each went home with £10,000.
The Pelebox machine dispenses medicines within just 36 seconds. Patients are sent a one-time PIN on their mobile phone, to access the medicines from the Pelebox. The PIN is keyed into the smart locker for drugs to be dispensed.
Health workers stock up the smart locker with drugs for HIV, Tuberculosis and diabetes on a daily basis. The long queues in hospitals are as a result of the usual demand of these drugs on a regular basis. Neo’s Pelebox has so far helped reduce queues in six public clinics in Gauteng province of South Africa. According to Hutiri, eight more units will be manufactured and installed within the next two months.