BFP: What do you do?
PM: I am a Programme Director at the African Innovation Foundation. I lead the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). The IPA is one of the Foundation’s flagship projects, and it mobilizes African innovators and entrepreneurs by providing $150,000 to winners who deliver market-oriented solutions to the continent’s challenges and spearhead African-led development. I also oversee the foundation’s work on innovation and technology. My work involves building partnerships across the continent to strengthen an innovation ecosystem that will fuel African economic growth.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
PM: Meeting innovators/entrepreneurs across Africa who are working on amazing projects and believe in their capabilities to shape the future of their countries and the continent! They take the initiative to use what they have at their disposal to create solutions to real challenges.… It is inspiring to watch and listen to many young innovators who see possibilities and options in everything.
In addition, I love the fact that through IPA, the African Innovation Foundation is able to showcase African ingenuity and demonstrate how Africans are capable of innovating solutions to the continent’s challenges as well as the whole world! On a personal level, this reinforces my belief in the future of Africa, and the fact that, with Africans in the driver seat, we can get there, faster!
BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?
PM: Working towards bridging the language divide across Africa, whereby stakeholders from Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone countries can collaborate in order to strengthen the African innovation ecosystem. While the realities on the ground might be different due to the cultural differences, there are so many exchanges that can happen to ensure that no one is re-inventing the wheel! It is starting to happen now, but not fast enough!
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? / What is the secret of your success?
While I can’t say I have already overcome the aforementioned challenge, my approach has been to identify a few key stakeholders and individuals representing different languages and invite them to join us when we have an opportunity to bring people together, such as around our IPA Awards event and round table discussion. Having these stakeholders together in a room is the starting point, and the hope is that the discussion continues after the initial encounter.
I guess the secret to my success, if any, is to follow my passion, believe in what I do and remember why I chose to do it. Remembering why I chose this area of work keeps me focused and allows me to deal with any challenges as I know they are distractions and smaller than the big picture I have drawn for myself! Also, it is important to focus on what can be done rather than paying too much attention to obstacles! My advice would be remain confident and accountable to yourself, believe in possibilities and link up with people who also believe that it can be done! Having the right mentors and role models also helps a lot!
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
PM: Probably start by assessing the motivation behind what they do to see if they are following their passion. Be ready to change direction if what they are doing is not leading them where they want to go. Then, find a balance between the reality and their dreams to do better and have an “it can be done” attitude! Lastly, having a good network helps as this can open doors of possibilities!
BFP: Finally; what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
PM: I hope to connect with other BFP members interested in joining hands in order to strengthen the African innovation ecosystem. I am keen in collaborating with members from different African countries to see how we can mobilize innovators from their countries to participate in the Innovation Prize for Africa! I also hope to learn from the community members about what else we can do at the AIF to contribute more to the discussions and actions that would speed up the sustainable development of Africa.
Thank you to Pauline Mujawamariya for taking the time to do this interview.
Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.