Afrox: tech innovator 2003

12 December 2003

African Oxygen Limited (Afrox) has won the Technology Top 100 award for South Africa’s most outstanding technological innovation of 2003 for its world benchmark escape type breathing units or “AfroxPacs” – self-contained self-rescuers that are carried by underground miners for use in emergency situations.

The gases, welding and healthcare company was also named overall winner in the category “chemicals, plastics, textiles and paper products”, beating Breathetex Corporation.

Afrox chief executive Rick Hogben said the AfroxPac body-worn unit, which uses chemicals as its oxygen source, “is the global leader in terms of durability and oxygen generating capability in its class.

“We have been designing, producing and marketing these units since 1996, supplying 48 000 first-generation AfroxPac 30s and, in the last two years, 70 000 second-generation AfroxPac 35s globally, primarily in the mining sector.”

Hogben said that Afrox’s self-rescue division has “a small but growing market share outside South Africa … The global trend by corporates to improve the safety conditions of their workers, in some instances supported by legislation, ensures a sustainable market for the AfroxPac and its derivatives for the future.

“Recent interest in our AfroxPac 35s from the coal mining industry in India has led to the AfroxPac 35’s approval for sale in the Indian sub-continent.”

The Technology Top 100 awards, sponsored by cellular service provider MTN, Business Day newspaper and the department of science and technology, is a respected programme that identifies and rewards companies that use technology and innovation to make their operations more competitive.

Companies that enter the Technology Top 100 must fulfil a number of criteria: they must be registered in South Africa and be a developer of new technologies, an innovative user of existing technologies, or a user of technology which is more sophisticated than that which is considered everyday.

Winners in the other main categories:

  • Automotive (assemblers): BMW SA
  • Automotive (component manufacturers): Baisch Engineering
  • Information and Communications Technology (hardware): Netstar
  • Information and Communications Technology (software, services and solutions): Aerospace Monitoring and Systems
  • Metals, machinery, electrical, capital equipment and construction: Bell Equipment Co.
  • Holding and management companies: Allied Technologies Limited (Altech)
  • Research and Development: De Beers TSS
  • Services: Eskom Enterprises TSI Division

For profiles of all the entrants in this year’s awards, visit the Technology Top 100 website. reporter