African Innovation Ecosystem Roundtables
country has experienced excessive rains increasing the challenges to produce food. They do however believe that making the invisible visible through the application of Artificial Intelligence can change things for the better as they utilise satellite imagery to record data in innovative ways. In doing so, they can merge knowledge with technology to improve their decision-making. Considering the involvement of stakeholders in Senegal, it became evident that at a governmental level (ministers and officials) there is an awareness of the need to improve data but no one is doing what it takes to solve the challenges. In order to achieve their artificial intelligence goals they require the data (currently lacking) to be incorporated into the computing power (available) and the already developed algorithms. A greater need for discussions and accountability amongst officials was expressed strongly.
Considering the products and services it became evident that in a country such as Sierra Leone, people are still very disconnected but still need the last mile solutions. Online sales and payments are still very low as only 11% of the country has access to the Internet. Retail trade is done on Whatsapp and various sms solutions . One success story in Sierra Leone is that of Unimax, a courier service that has expanded a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are now in need of a mobile app to expand their business from phone and whatsapp based interaction to a mobile app driven solution. Incountrieswithagreater internetpenetrationsuchasBurkinaFaso (with55%internetpenetration), the products/services that were doing well were those linked to the product delivery process. One such example is that of Ugopop that enables anybody to deliver products. Again, as in the case of Unimax in Sierra Leone, the need is now for a stronger application to drive their growth. Given the greater internet penetration, Burkina Faso now has more than 40% of its people making use ofmobile payment solutionswhilst they are also utilisingwhatsapp (and in this case specifically the voice notes feature) for business.
The need for support across the region differs somewhat per country. In Gambia , the emphasis would be on gaining access to markets financial support whilst in Senegal , the focus would be on access to markets and access to tools including software, hardware and hub management or entrepreneur training. Tech skills and access tomentorshipwas also highlighted as there is a strong need for experts to assist with the drive towards artificial intelligence and for mentorship from knowledgeable businesses (or countries). Furthermore, the need for governments’ involvement and support are also regarded as fundamental to future success.
InBurkina Faso , the greatest needs arementorship (guidance for entrepreneurs) and tools. Broadly
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