CHARLETTE N’GUESSAN: First Woman to win Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Innovation
Charlette N’Guessan, 26, Cote D’Ivorian won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s prestigious 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.
She is the first ever woman to win the Africa Prize. She is based in Ghana.
N’Guessan and her team developed BACE API, a software that uses facial recognition and artificial intelligence to verify identities remotely. The software can be integrated into existing apps and systems and is aimed at financial institutions and other industries that rely on identity verification when providing services.
The BACE API software uses a phone or computer’s built-in camera and does not need special hardware, and in contrast to global AI systems, has been developed specifically to identify Africans.
N’Guessan won the first prize of £25,000. At the virtual awards ceremony held on 3 September 2020, four finalists delivered presentations, before Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most Promising Engineering Innovation.
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation, and has a proven track record of identifying successful Engineering Entrepreneurs.
N’Guessan and her Co-Founders developed the software in 2018, after research they did during their studies revealed that Ghana’s banks have a significant problem with identity fraud and cybercrime.
In partnership with a data controller that deals with certified government-issued identity documents, BACE API has access to Ghanaian passports and other identity documents to use during its verification processes.
Two financial institutions are already using the software to verify customers’ identities, and the software is being tested on an event platform to confirm attendee registrations.
During the global pandemic, BACE API has emerged as a viable alternative to the in-person verification processes used by most businesses, such as fingerprints or personal appearances. Companies can now authenticate and onboard new or existing customers without ever meeting them.
The Africa Prize mentorship and training has helped the team focus more on Business development, and since being shortlisted, the team has designed strategies to improve BACE API’s market position.
The Africa Prize supports the brightest minds across the continent, equipping them with skills to reshape and rethink their businesses.