AfriLabs and Mozilla Roundtables Report



African Innovation Ecosystem Roundtables

Ecosystem Sierra Leone has a young ecosystem consisting of one Tech Hub and one Innovation Hub, both still at a micro level and mainly limited to focussing on ideation. They currently showcase a lot of creativity and innovation but lack the financial and business acumen to grow effectively. In Gambia , the focus is on growth and an openness towards technology in the logistics and deliveries environment. Gambia has seen an increase in online presence and mobile payments but the overall growth of innovation is still hampered by the lack of training in, and awareness of technology. Furthermore, innovators do not seem to put systems in place that can advance their solutions. This is mostly as a result of a lack of accessible finance for such systems with available finance options being costly in Africa. Gambia has also experienced minimum support from the public and private sector and would value far greater support from the government in their innovation efforts. They do however see a shift in mind-sets towards “Africa buying from Africa” which is the opposite of what they traditionally experienced. In order to achieve this new drive, synergy is required as they need networks to take their local brands across the region and ultimately across the continent. Ghana expressed a similar need for trade across regions whilst acknowledging that the Africa free trade area initiative will assist in achieving this. Concerns were raised around Africa’s “systemic, habitual problem to implement” that should be overcome to proceed with the implementation of the initiative. In order to achieve their goals in Ghana (and the region), the ecosystem stakeholders (each with their different interests) need to come together and collaborate by moving beyond governments and also involving other stakeholders. The shift must be from government led to people led initiatives. Considering the involvement of women in the ecosystem, it became evident that in Ghana there are a lot of women in technology especially in government and in the design and development of policies. The challenge was however the lack of women in technical and engineering disciplines where the numbers are quite low and it was important to change this as it is believed that women are extremely effective in problem solving and hence need to participate in these areas. The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the African continent strongly but it also tested the ecosystem and revealedboth strengths andweaknesses. The land-lockedcountry of Burkina Fasowas thefirst country in West Africa to record cases of Convid-19. The country responded by making their own, locally produced face masks showcasing their innovators’ ability to respond quickly. The country has a couple of very active innovation hubs which set up their own digital channels and came up with many solutions, utilising what they had available internally whilst the incoming cargo was halted nationwide. It was especially the delivery sector that exploded and improved their services immensely. The main challenges to the ecosystem in Burkina Faso are however the lack of access to connectivity and the high price thereof (even though mobile operators did introduce bonuses and more data to its customers during the pandemic). Senegal , has seen a lot of innovation in data modelling and is involved in providing data for policy decisions and policy implementation across the continent. Again the impact of the pandemic has been felt but the main fear is that the health crisis might be moving into a food crisis with the country seeing a potential lack of access to seeds and wilful farm labour. Further to this, the

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