Badr Idrissi is a 2017 Innovation Prize for Africa finalist for developing pioneering artificial intelligence software to manage the operations of environment-defending drones. The venture was inspired by his concern about the environmental and ecological threats (such as illegal fishing, poaching and deforestation) facing many African countries. For instance, a large percentage of fishing activities off the West African coast are illegal, resulting in huge economic losses.

“Illegal fishing is a worldwide phenomenon but it is more dramatic for African countries. For West African counties, for example, illegal fishing costs governments US$1.4bn every year and is destroying 300,000 jobs, according to the Overseas Development Institute,” Idrissi explains.

Part of the challenge is that African governments cannot afford to survey large territories.

“For instance, in West Africa we don’t have the capacity to have satellite surveillance on the sea for each square-kilometre and we don’t have the money to have many search boats and aeroplanes monitoring the area and so on,” he notes.