The Africa Prize for Engineering innovation, since its inception in 2014, has grown to become engineering innovation’s biggest dedicated prize in Africa. The recently held 2020 edition of the prize was won by Cote d’Ivoire’s Charlette N’Guessan – making the 26-year tech entrepreneur based in Ghana the first woman to win the coveted Africa Prize for Engineering innovation from the Royal Academy for Engineering Innovation.
Charlette N’Guessan also doubled as the first person based in Ghana to win the prize, though she is from Cote d’Ivoire.  The prize was won with BACE API, a software developed by Charlette and her team which uses facial recognition and artificial intelligence to remotely verify identities. The advanced identity verification software is tailormade for the identity verification needs of financial institutions and other industries who make use of such security details.
With regards to its usage, BACE API software can be integrated into existing apps and systems.  The software does not need any special hardware as it makes use of the built-in cameras of phones and computers. In addition, unlike other global AI systems, BACE API has been specially made to identify Africans.
One other special thing about the prize-winning BACE API software is that it can be used to detect whether an image is of a real person or a photo of an existing image. The software can easily detect that with mobile phone shots of live images and short videos, which were some of the main contributors to Charlette’s win.
According to Charlette N’Guessan and her co-founders, BACE API software was developed after their research revealed that Ghana’s banks have a serious problem with identity fraud and cybercrime. For that reason, after developing the software in 2018, they partnered with a data controller to gain access to Ghanaian passports and other ID documents to aid the software’s verification process.
Speaking of the success story of the BACE API,  it is currently being used by two financial institutions in Ghana and has also proven helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it became the only safe alternative to the usual in-person verification process. Thanks to the new software, companies were able to eliminate in-person verifications like the fingerprint and personal appearances, replacing them with BACE API’s new way of verifying every customer or employee without the need to meet them in person.

This year’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

This year’s edition of the Africa Prize for Engineering was held virtually on September 3, 2020, where four finalists delivered their presentations before the Africa Prize judges. Meanwhile, the decision of the winner was no taken by only the judges as there was a live audience, who also joined the voting process, which saw Charlette N’Guessan emerge the winner of the first prize.
For emerging the winner of the most promising engineering innovation, Charlette N’Guessan took home a prize of £25000 or GHC 192,000 cedi equivalent. Moreover, speaking of other benefits of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, she and her team revealed that its mentorship and training helped them focus more on their business development.  They were also able to sign partnerships with local financial institutions, improve the accuracy model and reduce the verification time of their software.
Charlette N’Guessan further remarked that “Being part of the Africa Prize has given us such confidence. We focus on Africa because we want to make sure BACE API is used by our people and works for them. We are so grateful to the Academy, and can not wait to take our innovation to new heights.” She added.
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation was founded in 2014 by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK and has been set out to find the most promising engineering entrepreneurs. This year’s edition happens to be its sixth-year running and entries for its next edition is currently still open for individuals and groups in Africa with engineering innovations.
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