South African innovator’s “Pelebox” wins Africa’s top engineering prize

This medicine dispenser could help reduce waiting time in South Africa, where long waiting periods demotivate medications.
South African innovator's “Pelebox” wins Africa’s top engineering prize

Neo Hutiri was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January 2014 and needed medicines monthly in order to treat it. This translated to long hours of standing on the queue waiting for his turn at the hospital pharmacy in Johannesburg.

Standing on the queues inspired Hutiri, an electrical engineer, to come up with the Pelebox Smart Locker, a digital dispenser installed in hospitals and stocked with routine medicines by healthcare workers. In comparison, Pelebox dispenses medicines within just 36 seconds.

The dispenser is stocked with medicines for patients with persistent conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis and diabetes which would compel patients to collect medicines on a regular basis. The Tswana word ‘pele’ “has three meanings: quickly, in front and first.

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The idea was to build a solution that’s patient-centric and ensures people are served quickly. For developing Pelebox, Hutiri won the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation from Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering. The prize is worth £25,000 ($31,000).

South African innovator's “Pelebox” wins Africa’s top engineering prize

South Africa has 4.3 million people on antiretroviral therapy; the largest program in the world according to the World Health Organization. However, about 3 million more people living with HIV are not on the therapy.

In a country like South Africa, long waiting periods could demotivate patients from sticking to their prescriptions, a situation that would be worrying.

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