Three important events took place this week. The first is the Nairobi Innovation Week that has grown quite considerably under the clarion call ‘innovating for a better tomorrow’, ‘bringing together partners from government, private sector, development partners and research centers with an aim of providing a platform for show-casing and encouraging innovation’.
The second was Africa-France Business Forum and the launch of Stars in Africa EU-Africa Youth and Entrepreneurship Forum by his Excellency the President.
The third was the Innovation Summit Africa by the Economist that looked at technology, the expanding labor force and large consumer market, and their place in driving growth across the continent. All run a similar thread of supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.There is no shortage of innovators, both young and old looking to make bank while addressing the various challenges that exist for us as a nation and also continent at large. Capital is also increasingly becoming readily available as investors double down on efforts to understand the local context, culture and opportunity. These are the two parts of three that are necessary for the creation of a vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurship pipeline. The third is policy.
In public forum’s many remain subscribed to the school of thought that innovation moves at a sprint while legislation seemingly stands still. While this has held true in the past, and in my opinion for the simple reason that we were really just getting started on the journey towards understanding and nurturing innovation ecosystems, we should have already moved to adopt a different mindset that purposefully puts policy at the center of government support towards the creation of an enabling environment.
Mpesa’s days as the poster child of innovation that did not seek permission but instead scaled fast and dragged legislation along should be long gone. The unique circumstances that led to their through pass; timing, market preparedness, state and mood of regulatory bodies, embedded champions, switched on enablers et cetera cannot be replicated easily. Blockchain only recently got a taskforce formed, drone conversations have been flying about for a while, energy, health, mobility and a host of other sectors are stifled, not from lack of great potential and backers, but from poor, ill-formed or non-existent policy.
If we are to truly reach utopia, government must re-engineer itself and take on the DNA of the startups and upstarts that it claims to support. Agility and speed on the policy front is the true secret sauce.