Neo Hutiri of Pelebox (middle) with Africa Prize judges John Lazar and Mariéme Jamme – and his new medal.
  • 31-year-old South African engineer Neo Hutiri has won another prize for his Pelebox, this time the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation worth R470,000.
  • The Pelebox is a smart locker that cuts down queueing times for patients collecting chronic medication.
  • Hutiri plans to use the latest cash windfall to ramp up manufacturing. 

31-year-old South African engineer Neo Hutiri has added another prize to the pile his Pelebox concept has already won: the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Hutiri is the first South African to win the prestigious medal – and accompanying £25,000 (R470,000) cash prize – from the London-based organisation.

The Pelebox is a smart locker used by patients collecting chronic medication. Instead of queuing at a pharmacy, patients receive a one-time PIN on their phones, and use that code to open a locker containing their medicine.  

Judges praised the concept for improving conditions for both patients and those who work in "a severely strained public healthcare system".

While waiting times for medicine can be more than three hours at some facilities, Pelebox users spend 36 seconds getting access to their medicine.

The lockers also remove the fear that someone is watching an HIV-positive patient collecting ARVs, Hutiri told the BBC

Six of the systems are operational, and Pelebox is currently building eight more sets.

Mentoring associated with the Africa Prize has helped Pelebox shift focus from development to manufacturing, the Royal Academy says. And he now plans to use the cash component of the prize to ramp up manufacturing, Hutiri says.

Hutiri came up with the concept after he was diagnosed with TB, and found himself queuing for medication in state facilities.

Pelebox has since won a prize at the Festival of Ideas, and R1 million in the Hack Jozi Challenge. It is also supported by a long list of local and international business accelerators and social-good non-profits.

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