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Tanzanian engineer wins Pitch@Palace Africa

FROM THE HEART: Dr Askwar Hilonga (pic: Ernest Simons)

A TANZANIAN engineer whose ingenious design promises to bring clean water to millions across Africa has won an entrepreneurial competition hosted by the Duke of York.

Dr Askwar Hilonga’s passionate performance won over the audience at the Pitch@Palace event held at St James’s Palace on December 1.

A total of 10 talented entrepreneurs pitched ideas to benefit the continent in front of a room of potential investors and mentors as well as key influencers.

Guests included HRH Prince Andrew and his partners for the project, former Nigerian President Olasegun Obasanjo and billionaire businessman Aliko Dangote.

POWER PLAYERS: HRH Prince Andrew, centre, stands next to Olasegun Obasanjo, left, Paul Sinclair (behind him). (From far right) Nigerian oil magnate Femi Otedola and Aliko Dangote

Hilonga’s design, the Gongali Model, is a filter that decontaminates local water sources in his home country.

Earlier this year, it won an innovation prize worth £25,000 ($38,348) from the UK's Royal Academy of Engineering.

In his victory speech, Hilonga said: “There’s only one thing left to do…become a millionaire by impacting millions of lives.”

Hilonga told how his own family had regularly suffered from water-borne diseases in rural Tanzania, so when he completed his PhD in nanotechnology in South Korea he started investigating nano materials that would be suitable for water purification.

The technology has the power to absorb anything from copper and fluoride to bacteria, viruses and pesticides.

Hilonga said his invention – provided to communities for free – could change the lives of the 70 per cent of households in Tanzania that do not have clean drinking water.

The Duke of York told The Voice supporting entrepreneurship was one of the best ways to support Africa’s development.

He said: “I’m concerned with helping entrepreneurs…they are the people who are most likely to solve some of these long-term issues [plaguing Africa], so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Prince Andrew said he was delighted to work with Obasanjo and Dangote. “It was in conversation with them that this whole idea came about,” he explained. “So we thought we’d have a go at it.”

The event is part of African Entrepreneurship Programme (AEP) set up between the three men and The Global African Investment Summit (TGAIS) to support the next generation of business leaders.

Obasanjo said: "By showcasing these talented young business leaders, we can ensure they get maximum exposure to international investors to help them achieve their business goals."

Paul Sinclair, director of TGAIS, said the programme could help “bring change in Africa through enterprise and trade opportunities."

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