Milken-Motsepe Green Energy Prize Winners Revealed at Conference Opening

The Milken Institute and the Motsepe Foundation have revealed the champions of the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy, a distinguished competition worth $2 million, celebrating the efforts of entrepreneurs dedicated to enhancing access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable off-grid electricity in Africa. This announcement unfolded at the prestigious Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

Securing the prestigious $1 million Grand Prize is Aftrak, a pioneering initiative hailing from the UK and Malawi. Aftrak’s innovative solar microgrid and custom-designed tractors have not only tripled agricultural yield but also bolstered farmer incomes while lighting up remote communities. On the heels of Aftrak, South Africa-based OMNIVAT clinched the runner-up award of $250,000. Their containerized electricity generation and storage system provide a trifecta of benefits: clean water, clean energy, and Wi-Fi enriched by virtual reality, catering specifically to remote communities.

This event marks the second iteration of the Milken–Motsepe Innovation Prize Program, a series of multiyear, multimillion-dollar global innovation competitions aimed at driving technological advancement aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Its precursor, the Milken–Motsepe Prize in AgriTech, was initiated in 2021, targeting the objectives of eradicating poverty and achieving zero hunger.

The selection process was rigorous and exhaustive. Since its launch in November 2022, the competition garnered interest from hundreds of entrepreneurs spanning 79 countries and six continents. Of these, 160 submitted their technological designs and business models for scrutiny. In June 2023, an independent panel of expert judges meticulously sieved through these submissions, shortlisting 20 semifinalists who received $20,000 each to refine and test their innovations.

Subsequently, five teams emerged as finalists after undergoing a meticulous evaluation of their innovations’ potential to deliver 60 kilowatt hours of off-grid electricity within a 24-hour period, exclusively from sustainable sources. Each finalist was further endowed with an additional $70,000 and given a platform to showcase their creations through live demonstrations in partnership with Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe, co-founder and CEO of the Motsepe Foundation, expressed her admiration for the participants, commending their dedication to tackling one of Africa’s most pressing challenges. The announcement of the Green Energy winners and finalists signifies a beacon of hope for the region, promising innovative solutions to address its energy needs.

Looking ahead, the third installment of the Milken-Motsepe Prize, dedicated to FinTech, was unveiled at the 2024 Milken Institute Global Conference. This prize aims to honor companies harnessing cutting-edge technologies to enhance access to capital and financial services for small businesses in emerging and frontier markets.

With a total prize pool of $2 million, including a $1 million Grand Prize, the Milken-Motsepe Prize in FinTech underscores the transformative potential of financial technology in empowering individuals, particularly in remote communities, to initiate and expand businesses. By reducing transaction costs, streamlining processes, and broadening access to capital and financial services, FinTech can pave the way for economic empowerment and inclusive growth, aligning with key Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Emily Musil Church, senior director of environmental and social innovation at the Milken Institute, emphasized that the impact of the Milken-Motsepe Innovation Prizes extends far beyond monetary rewards. It signifies the formation of a global community of visionary entrepreneurs committed to shaping a better, more sustainable world. Through initiatives like MI Philanthropy’s Science Philanthropy Accelerator for Research and Collaboration (SPARC), which has influenced over $2 billion in medical research funding, the program seeks to harness philanthropic capital to drive positive change on a global scale.

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