Prize-winning engineer shows hard work pays off

Neo Hutiri standing next to the Technovera Pelebox Smart Locker. Picture: Supplied.

Neo Hutiri standing next to the Technovera Pelebox Smart Locker. Picture: Supplied.

Published Feb 5, 2024


Durban — South Africa’s award-winning engineer Neo Hutiri encourages the youth to put in the hard work to achieve their goals.

Hutiri, 35, born in Kuruman in the Northern Cape, but grew up in Mahikeng in the North West has once again proven that hard work pays off, after coming out top after 10 years of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

In 2019, he won the Africa Prize and on Wednesday was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 10th anniversary medal beating nine previous Africa Prize Alumni.

Hutiri’s latest triumph comes with R1m (UK £50 000) to boost his business, Technovera, which makes Pelebox Smart Lockers to improve access to medication for chronic diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV.

This invention is an internet-enabled smart locker dispensing system that enables clients to collect their repeat chronic medication in less than 30 minutes, instead of waiting long hours in queues at health-care facilities.

It offers convenient collection points and is operational across South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

Hutiri said that he was pleased with the win.

“I feel ecstatic. I feel like, there is this journey where you have been putting your head down and doing everything that you want to do and at the end of this hard work, people lift you up to say ‘Look at what you have done and this right here is it for me. I am feeling very great, motivated, seen and recognised,” he said.

He said that both the wins were different from each other.

South African engineer Neo Hutiri holding his accolade for the invention of the Technovera Pelebox Smart Locker. Picture: James Oatway.

“In 2019, we were recognising for the fact that we identified a problem and thought of an innovation. We went and did the hard work of knocking at the doors of the Ministry of Health and presented our idea. At the time, we had just started the pilot in Mamelodi. I think that for us, it was the formula to show that we are not just talking, but we are doing something and are effectively serving patients.

“I feel like the second time, using the idea that you can put your head down and work hard, people recognised the fact that execution was important and that one was able to continue doing what they have to,” said Hutiri.

He said that some of the challenges experienced while creating the product included a need for more capital and finding suitable members for the team.

Hutiri said that he was motivated by seeing patients using the product and saving more time for themselves.

He said he planned on spending the winnings through creating more jobs, improving the current innovation and ensuring that they would continue to serve more communities.

Hutiri holds a degree in electrical engineering, obtained from UCT.

He encouraged other upcoming entrepreneurs and innovators to be confident in their products.

“It is about us as the youth starting to realise that in 20 years to come, we will have to step into those positions where we feel like sometimes our leaders need to do more. We must cultivate the culture of having something to contribute,” said Hutiri.

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