Partnership Vital to African Innovation

By Pauline Mujawamariya, Program Director, Innovation Prize Africa

Partnership Vital to African Innovation

One of the biggest obstacles to innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa is the lack of access to funding. It seems innovators cannot find investors and investors cannot find innovators. We have to bridge this gap. The Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) is a platform that addresses this challenge by identifying innovators, rewarding them, assessing their needs and assisting in connecting them with investors in the interest of expanding the innovation ecosystem on the continent. This is based on our belief, at the African Innovation Foundation, that innovation is the key to African sustainable development and that a multi-sector approach is necessary to build an innovation ecosystem that can speed up African economic growth.

The solution to aid dependency is ultimately to create an environment that fosters and supports Africa’s economic self-determination. Innovation and entrepreneurship play a large role in Africa reaching this goal. That is why the IPA invests in home grown innovation and Africa’s greatest resources – its human capital, especially, its youth. Many African countries still do have available funds to allow innovators to develop prototypes, bring their innovations to market and create profitable businesses. This results in a lot of research sitting on university shelves collecting dust as opposed to being used for the sustainable development of Africa. We need partners who are interested in evaluating, scaling up and investing in ground-breaking African innovations. Private equity investors, corporations, governments, academia, civil society organisations and NGOs must come to the table and funnel funding to the good ideas that have the potential to move the continent forward and be a part of the future we are innovating for the benefit of Africa’s long-term development.

If we accept that innovation is a key driver to economic growth in so called “developing countries”, then we must concede that government-thinking must be at par with the private sector when it comes to sustaining the continent’s development. Governments must create the necessary legislative frameworks to support private sector-led initiatives that find and support innovators who create solutions to Africa’s every day challenges. Inevitably, the public and private sector must jointly come to the realization that innovation and entrepreneurship are the solutions to reducing aid dependency and invest together to promote innovation as a driver of African sustainable development.

Africa needs public and private investments to make the most of the continents potential and invest in local ingenuity. As the IPA focuses on African-led development, we believe that the public and private sectors and NGO’s must layer investment to create greater impact on the continent. In Africa’s current economic environment, public-private partnerships will allow for the development of an ecosystem that improves the quality of life of all Africans. It is necessary for all sectors of the economy to share the risks, rewards and responsibility of funding innovation for the sustainable development of Africa. This requires full commitment from all.

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