African Innovation Ecosystem Roundtables
There is a great need to develop an ecosystem for training and a need for funding for testing and scaling of ideas. It is also believed that such funding will provide a financial runway for solutions and allow for resilience of entrepreneurs and the ability to scale. Further to this, there is a need for cross border collaboration and networking as Africa lowers its borders to enable free movement and implementation of the continental free trade area. On the issue of foreign investment into local ecosystems and entrepreneurs, it was highlighted that Africa is now part of a global village and needs to work with other countries to build its own system. In Namibia , the innovation ecosystem is still fairly young but it gained some momentum in 2011 when some private sector players came on board. They now run programs that work with early stage ideas, crafting of business plans and support to grow, and research and development focussed on practical innovation research. Furthermore, their mobile lab has built up a community of over 400-500 developers whilst they have also developed a SADC wide Edutech ecosystem and trained 36 entrepreneurs (of which 40% of attendees have gone on to set up companies). Some of the challenges experienced include the fact that there have been no innovation policies and a general lack of understanding of innovation. However, a ministry of innovation was recently established which might assist in this. Further challenges include the fact that they are limited to international funding as there is a local lack of understanding when it comes to innovation and subsequently a lack of financial support. This landscape is however changing as some telecommunication companies are now starting to fund some technology ideas locally.
Namibia has also indicated the need for a proper incubation system that is further supported by science parks similar to what Finland used to transform their landscape.
Zambia started a new hub in 2011 that originally focused on where the tech people would meet but it did not resolve any real problems. It progressed to a space for tech developers that now solve problems. A number of hubs have been added with the majority located in the capital and some hubs focussing on specific demographic groups such as women. Innovations resulted in SmartZambia which has enabled features such as paying tax through technology, voting online and some Edutech solutions. Edutech specifically has seen immense growth catalysed by the Covid-19 pandemic growing from 1,000 users to over 30,000 users.
The current ecosystem has a focus on Fintech and Edutech but still finds it difficult to attract women to the technical fields even though general innovation sees 80% women participation.
Zambia has a number of ecosystem challenges that includes a lack of fresh/new ideas, a lot of imitations and a lack of focus on startups post their launch stage. There has also been an overly focus on getting funding as opposed to developing manageable ideas and getting them tested. Many are romanticising starting a business but not willing to do the hard work. Ultimately the resilience of the business will be up to the entrepreneurs will to succeed.
Made with FlippingBook Ebook Creator