5 tips to win the Innovation Prize for Africa Awards

by Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl, IPA Director

Innovation is the main driver of economic growth, and a country’s prosperous future depends on its ability to promote and support its homegrown innovations. Such support also requires developing strong innovation ecosystems which provide enabling environment and needed funds for innovators and entrepreneurs to prototype, pilot, benchmark and scale their innovations. While Africa has many talents, there are no matching innovation ecosystems in the majority of African countries to unleash the potential of these talents. This is why the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) initiated its Innovation Prize for Africa to identify, reward and strengthen African innovation ecosystems through our platforms, whilst spurring growth of innovative, market-driven African solutions to African challenges.

The IPA initiative has been running for 5 years and it has mobilized more than 6000 innovators from 50 African countries. It also has a robust network of innovation enablers from across Africa and beyond who are ready to collaborate with AIF and support selected IPA applications after the Awards event. The IPA 6th edition, also known as IPA 2017, was launched on September 27th and its theme is African innovation: Investing in prosperity. Specifically, the IPA 2017 targets innovations in 5 main areas: manufacturing & service industry, health & well-being, agriculture & agribusiness, environment, energy & water and ICTs.

The call for entries runs for three months starting Tuesday 27 September 2016 with a submission deadline of Tuesday 3 January 2017 at 11:59pm GMT.

IPA 2017 will provide a springboard for scaling up ideas and sharing them across the continent and beyond. In addition to the lucrative US$150000 cash prize shared among three winners, all nominees receive a US$5000 voucher. They are also featured at the IPA 2017 event, along with attractive entrepreneurial opportunities such as funding, communications training, and active participation in the IPA network of innovators and innovation enablers.

If you plan to participate in IPA 2017 and want to win, check out the following key elements we look for in a winning application. The IPA selection process is rigorous, so be sure to keep in mind the following 5 elements that could make you the next IPA winner!

  • Eligibility:Because IPA is only for Africans, apply only if you are an African living on the continent or in the diaspora.
  • Stage:While we encourage anyone to apply, it is impossible to evaluate an innovation at an idea stage. Many people have ideas, and what distinguishes true innovators from the average pool is that potential innovations can be tested and translated into products. At very least, a concept must have been developed to demonstrate how the idea works.
  • Problem:IPA is targeting innovators who propose innovative solutions to serious African problems. So make sure you identify and define the problem you are trying to solve, and do your homework to find out whether that problem is seen as a serious problem for African
  • Solution:Now that you have identified the problem, explain clearly, in a layman’s language how your proposed solution (innovation) works. Tell us if your solution is a breakthrough (no similar solutions exist), or if you have competitors who are proposing alternative solutions to the same problem. In case alternative solutions exist, briefly highlight the difference between your solution and the existing ones and explain why yours is better. It helps if you provide facts which can be verified by experts. Lastly, we want to know whether there is a market for your solution, how viable it would be commercially, as well as your strategy to ensure the sustainability of your venture.
  • Superiority:At this stage of the competition, only the best few entries remain and we compare all of them in order to choose the best, who become the winners. For each one, we want to know: if the proposed solution is solving a bigger problem in comparison to other innovations remaining in the competition; the size in terms of numbers of those benefiting from the proposed innovation in comparison to other innovations in the competition; which among the remaining innovations is more commercially viable; which innovation is most likely to have a greater, more positive impact. Lastly, we want to know which innovators have what it takes to make their ventures successful, and have a passion for innovation by Africans for Africa – an essential element for a good IPA ambassador.

5 tips to win the Innovation Prize for AfricaWe invite you and your networks to be part of this exciting journey by submitting your application to IPA 2017. For more details, please check out our IPA website www.innovationprizeforafrica.org and apply NOW: https://ipa.africaninnovation.org

We also invite innovation enablers to join our network and help us spread the word. For further details on partnership opportunities, email us at ipainfo@africaninnovation.org


  1. What a great and smart initiative. Great analysis of the required criteria for valuable contributions to help the continent develop. I wish Pauline and all the candidates and IPA winners great success in their endeavors!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.