Innovators Renew Commitment To Africa

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After three days of animated discussion and debate, the second Open Innovation Africa Summit concluded with an inspiring, vibrant group of Africa’s top innovators stating their commitment to innovation across the continent.

The conference, which kicked off with an address from Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for ICT, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, challenged the continent’s brightest minds to identify opportunities and challenges, and plot a strategy to boost innovation in Africa. Participants at the summit discussed four streams—Ecosystem for Innovation, eTransformation, Technology Financing, and Mobile Information Society—which they chose based on their background, passions and skills.

In the Ecosystem for Innovation stream, the group proposed a number of initiatives including StartUp Heaven, a series of events that seek to increase investment in entrepreneurs across East Africa. The idea is particularly viable due to the existence of key infrastructure in markets like Uganda and Kenya, with the group committing to launch the initiative before the next summit.

Ideas in the Technology Financing stream included an online portal for closing the information gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and a project centring on crowd funding.  The group also presented an idea to create a network of local and regional investment readiness programmes to get SMEs prepared to put their ideas to funders. This was a challenge Dr. Ndemo identified at the start of the conference when he stated: “The discipline among the innovators has not met the demand of those that provide the funding. We still have some level of discipline we need to instil among innovators.”

Mobile Banking Services for All was one of the ideas that came from the eTransformation stream, intended to create a mobile banking mechanism that enables incumbent banks, money transfer providers and new entrants to provide banking services through mobile channels. The group also presented the Open Climate Change Data Platform, which proposed using ICT applications and solutions to address environmental challenges in Africa.

Ideas on the Mobile Information Society came last and, appropriately, most of the group’s designs centred around connecting many of the distinct projects that are underway on the continent. GetAPP, a content distribution system for the ‘un-webbed’, focused on solving the break in the current value chain by using the inherently social nature of African consumers. This set the scene for the final presentation which was simply titled: “Connecting the dots”, aimed at establishing a simple communication channel between the various “hubs and labs” that exist across Africa.

“It was great to have even more African innovators and entrepreneurs at this year’s OIAS. Their interaction brought forth many interesting ideas. We really saw the promise and potential of Africa’s innovation leaders and we hope they continue to build links with one another,” added Valerie D’ Costa, infoDev’s Programme Manager.

By Henry Ojelu