How can we support and improve Innovation in Africa?
Supporting innovation in Africa is no easy task. Political instability, civil wars, terrorism, and uncertainty often disturb the ecosystem of progress and sustainable development. I meet with three of Africa’s most innovative young women entrepreneurs who share their thoughts on how to improve and support innovation. Often, we find that when discussing innovation in Africa, such discussions normally don’t include young African voices, particularly that of women and girls. But their voice matters and without the inclusion of African women and girls in such discussions, whether of that involving technology, sustainable development, or innovation — change cannot happen.
Research conducted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) shows an increase ranging from 10 to 30 percent in the number of women-led enterprises over the last decade. In Uganda alone, women account for 40 percent of businesses (EIU, 2010). As the number of women entrepreneurs and innovators increase, their voices can no longer be ignored. African women and girls have a significant role to play in Africa’s economic and innovative transformation.
Nkem Uwaje, Managing Director of FutureSoft Nigeria and winner of the 2012 Etisalat Nigeria Prize for Innovation states, “We can improve innovation in Africa by supporting people with innovative ideas and I think that competitions and contests are a good way to start. African governments and the private sector need to work together to launch more contests and competitions that focus on innovation.”
Innovation needs an enabling environment. This means creating hubs where innovators can meet, share ideas, and collaborate. We [youths] need a space where ideas can be incubated and where prototypes can be developed. Without this, we are bound to fail as a continent. In addition, ICT development is very important to Africa’s innovation ecosystem and future. ICT is vital to ensuring that Nigeria and Africa will not be left behind. Everyone keeps talking about the digital divide, but instead of bridging it, it keeps on getting bigger. We need government policies that ensure that technology is not a privilege but a basic amenity. My company, Futuresoft is playing its part in making ICT more accessible through our iConnect project.”
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