Charlette N’Guessan Becomes the First Female Winner of Africa Prize

Technology entrepreneur Charlette N’Guessan has become the first woman to win this year’s Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

The 26-year-old of Ivorian descent is not only the first woman to win the prestigious prize, but also the first winner based in Ghana.

Her team’s invention, Bace API, uses artificial intelligence and to verify identities remotely and has been developed specifically to identify Africans.

The academy states that the invention is aimed at institutions that depend on identity verification, with two financial institutions already making use of the software. It takes live images or short videos recorded on phone cameras to detect whether an image is of a real person or a photo of an existing image.

“Being part of the Africa Prize has given us such confidence,” N’Guessan proudly says of their win. “We focus on Africa because we want to make sure BACE API is used by our people and works for them. We are so grateful to the Academy, and cannot wait to take our innovation to new heights.”

After presentations by the four finalists, N’Guessan won first prize, receiving £25,000 after being voted for by the audience during the virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 3 September 2020.

There was a £10,000 award received by the three runners up; Aisha Raheem (Nigeria), who created a digital platform providing farmers with data to improve their efficiency, Dr William Wasswa (Uganda) who presented a low-cost digital microscope that speeds up cervical cancer screening and David Tusubira (Uganda), who invented a system that manages off-grid power grids by monitoring the condition of solar rays.

The academy’s press release states: “Fifteen shortlisted Africa Prize entrepreneurs, from six countries in sub-Saharan Africa, received eight months of training and mentoring, during which they developed their business plans and learned to market their innovations.”

In N’Guessan’s case, her and her team used research carried out during their studies that revealed the outstanding problem of identity fraud and cybercrime in Ghana’s banks to develop their system. The research estimated Ghanaian financial institutions spend approximately over £300 million per annum to identify their customers.

“We are very proud to have Charlette N’Guessan and her team win this award,” said Cameroonian entrepreneur and Africa Prize judge, Rebecca Enonchong. “It is essential to have technologies like facial recognition based on African communities, and we are confident their innovative technology will have far-reaching benefits for the continent.”

Founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK in 2014, The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is Africa’s biggest award dedicated to engineering innovation and is consistent in identifying top-class, successful engineering entrepreneurs. It now supports talented sub-Saharan African entrepreneurs with innovations that solve critical issues in their communities in a new, efficient way.