Why Does Africa Need Innovation?

By Pauline Mujawamariya, Program Director, Innovation Prize Africa

Why Does Africa Need Innovation?

Africa is standing at a turning point in its socio-economic history. Never before has the continent’s economy thrived as it is today and things can only get better. While most Africans will not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) by the 2015 deadline, they are determined and are implementing measures to ensure they improve the life conditions of their citizens. Africa has experienced one of the fastest economic growths in recent history – 6 per cent on average. But what role is innovation playing in Africa’s new economic revolution? And why does it matter? At the African Innovation Foundation, we believe innovation is no longer a matter of choice but the way ahead!

Like anywhere else around the world, innovation is the key driver for economic growth on the African continent. It is clear that the “old way” of doing things has expired and conventional strategies for economic growth are no longer that effective. Innovation is needed as a matter of urgency. We can no longer continue to rely on the import of solutions while we are capable of creating our own solutions which respond to African realties. What we need is an influx of new, effective and dynamic ideas/solutions that can take the continent’s growth to the next level.

Africa is also endowed with great human capital, it’s youth, who are eager and have the capacity of turning things around for the continent and set it on a path of sustainable development. At the same time, youth unemployment rates are rising. One of the reasons for this scandalous unemployment rate is that resources have not been properly allocated to the nurturing of young minds’ ideas for the benefit and growth of their communities and the continent as a whole. There is no shortage of ideas in Africa, simply a lack of funding and the supporting infrastructure to bring these ideas to life. Africa is the continent with the biggest youth population. Should these youth be encouraged to participate in the innovation ecosystem, we would go a long way to solving the unemployment issues that the continent faces and start reaping the benefits of marketable solutions that would contribute to the continent’s growth in all sectors of the economy.

It is important to note that most of Africa’s every day challenges are unique to the continent and it would take African minds to solve them. From agriculture to manufacturing, health and wellbeing, water and energy and even ICT, we need to start looking inwards to create the solutions that will not only solve the issues that Africans are faced with on a daily basis but also to form the foundation for sustainable economies that will not be easily shaken by global economic downturns.

Finally, there is the issue of effectiveness and efficiency. As we reassess how and when the MDG could be achieved, time is not on our side. We need to be strategic about how we reach our socio-economic goals as a continent and to do this, it is vital that we create solutions that are new, unique and that effectively tackle Africa’s challenges at their core level. Africans must contribute toward developing new products, increasing efficiency or saving cost in Africa in the shortest possible amount of time. We need to link arms and collaborate when possible in order to make it happen faster! The African Innovation Foundation, calls on all stakeholders including investors, policy makers, institutions/incubators, innovators/entrepreneurs etc. to join us and work together to build a strong African innovation Ecosystem.

For more on innovation in Africa, please visit www.innovationprizeforafrica.org and apply for the Innovation Prize for Africa to win your share of USD150’000. The deadline is November 30th 2013. Spread the world! Join us on Facebook and Twitter

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