Hub Perspectives West Africa
Innovation hubs in Africa, by nature of how we work and why we exist, provide avenues for inclusive innovation. There is great innovation happening across different spaces including education, agriculture, transportation and networking. However, ensuring that Africa’s marginalized groups are supported to scale their innovations into profitable and sustainable homegrown enterprises that address the needs of local communities requires stronger policy intervention. These policy frameworks must encourage or perhaps evenmandate partnerships with public and private sector organizations to narrow the gap between homegrown innovations and access to enabling factors such as capacity development, skill transfer, knowhow, and seed funding amongst others. They can support these vulnerable groups directly or help the hubs that house them. For example, one of the key challenges that grassroot innovators face is the proliferation of cybercrimes. More work needs to be done to teach all SMEs how to optimize the use of technology in a safe manner. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, hub operations have come to a near halt. Poor connectivity has made it challenging to work from home. Higher transport costs have added another barrier to the ability of innovators to connect with opportunities. The pandemic has stifled economies, yet we have seen little to no support for hubs that cater towards local innovations that can play a role in flattening the curve. Policymakers, such as the African Union for example, have provided the framework for continent-wide innovation to grow, however country-level adoption is required for local innovators to fully benefit, especially during these challenging times.
Cyriac Gbogou Executive Director, Ovillage, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
OVillage offers a space for youth who want to learn about technology or who have an idea and need help to develop it. OVillage produces social innovation projects based on open source software.
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