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Will Africa be the next global success story in innovation? This is the question that over 200 selected thought leaders from 25 countries across the world are gathered in Kenya’s Rift Valley to address.
The aim of the first-ever Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS) is to stimulate critical thinking about the role of innovation in sustainable socio-economic development and to contribute to creating a conducive environment for innovative entrepreneurial activity in Africa.
The Summit intends to generate actionable ideas and recommendations for the gathered public policy specialists, researchers, entrepreneurs, ICT experts and financiers to take forward in their respective contexts for positive social impact. The Summit is designed as a unique, three-day dialogue of critical minds and change agents intended to contribute to external dialogue and action on social innovation at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
So far, delegates have identified a number of key issues for in-depth discussion including the need to create sustainable systems in the knowledge economy, heightened focus on research and development capacity building, and the role of broader local, regional and international partnerships among all stakeholders as basic steps to catalyze new, demand-driven innovations to improve the quality of life in Africa.
Delegates have also highlighted the role of government in creating an enabling environment to foster innovation, ensuring continuity and predictability at the public institution level for continued knowledge development.
Technology Platforms: leveraging technology to deliver public and private services to the underserved is one of the key themes for discussion at the Summit. This dialogue will be taking place alongside three others on:
- African Innovation Ecosystem: enabling innovation for sustainable socio-economic development
- Emerging Business Models for Serving the Poor: building African success stories
- Human Capital – Education for All: developing skills using technology
Considering that Africa has the highest penetration growth rate for mobile phones in the world, the role of mobile technology in building an information ecosystem will also be central in discussions at the Summit.
Currently, many countries in Africa are enjoying improved economic growth with some countries achieving as much as 12% GDP growth annually. There is increased investment and an increasingly attractive business environment. The completion and operation of many submarine fibre optic cables linking Africa to the rest of the world has made more bandwidth available at significantly reduced prices making information more accessible to many more people.This also presents a valuable opportunity for young people to be heard and participate in development through information and ideas-sharing and entrepreneurship.
Still, some key considerations remain in order to achieve a robust information society and knowledge economy; content and human capital issues need to be addressed. Ensuring an enabling environment is pivotal to harnessing the power of innovations and developing a culture of technological entrepreneurship.
Africa must also harness the immense human capital that it boasts. This is another key discussion point for the Summit. In many ways, the situation in this area is grim – currently, 32 million children in Africa are out of school and 59% will never get the chance to enrol. Africa needs about 2.4 million teachers by 2015 and there is need to bridge the huge teachers’ training gap through innovative learning methods. This is in keeping with the global “Education for All” goals.
Innovation entrepreneurship in Africa can flourish where there is emphasis on monitoring, evaluation and learning and the roles of the various players are recognised.
Delegates are expected to put forward proposals on “making it easy for innovators to get into the ecosystem” and sustainable market enterprises that offer social solutions.