Building a Resilient Innovative Africa in a COVID-19 world

Hub Perspectives East Africa

Earlier this year, hubs outside of Nairobi city collaborated with Konza Technopolis, a key flagship initiative under Kenya's Vision 2030 development plan, alongside other key partners, to host a challenge to respond to COVID-19 issues outlined by government authorities, with scalable solutions that can be co-created and adopted for use, matched by policy and financial incentives. The success of this event highlighted the need to intentionally support innovators in small towns and cities across Africa and that viable solutions can come from just about anywhere on the continent. African innovation hubs are pipelines for local innovations that governments and large businesses should invest in. We need to identify and map the strengths and unique selling points of African hubs against the communities they serve. Hubs can also play a stronger role in identifying viable business models to make local communities a part of the homegrown solution building process. This will help local innovations to attract the right kind of support from external stakeholders such as the private sector who typically view hubs as not-for-profit entities that receive funding from other quarters. On a policy level, Africa needs to regulate entrepreneurship programs to raise the standards of capacity building and skills transfer in accordance with global best practice. There should be a greater push to link incubators with the academia and research centers to enable collaboration, to test ideas at the national level, and to encourage the promotion of local innovations. This is the only way to build the capacity of grassroots innovators. In Kenya and other parts of Africa, start-up laws and acts are helping to create the kind of enabling environment for local innovators, but a much bigger continent-wide push is needed, especially now in view of COVID-19. Going a step further, if African innovators are to be able to scale beyond borders, policy must remove barriers to trade. The AfCFTA will help with this but only if there are goodwill agreements between African governments to willingly open their markets to all Africans. This will require alignment across the entire trading spectrum ranging from market intelligence, to access to business information, and financing opportunities amongst others.

David Ogiga Executive Director, Sote Hub Voi, Kenya

Sote Hub provides an open space for young innovators and start-ups to design market solutions to local challenges.


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