Building a Resilient Innovative Africa in a COVID-19 world

Hub Perspectives North Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented opportunities for marginalized businesses to grow. Local start-ups and SMEs demonstrated their capacity to rise to the challenges posed by the pandemic and find ways to continue to serve their communities. They should be given more opportunities to create homegrown solutions that meet local needs. For African governments, this is a clear message that they do not necessarily always need to import solutions. African innovation hubs understand well the local context and have invested a lot of time working to strengthen local innovation ecosystems. In doing so, they have earned the trust of their communities but more support is needed from other public and private sector stakeholders to catalyze the work that is already being done or to fill in the gaps in areas where more expertise is required. Policymakers and other innovation enablers should favor homegrown innovation and provide the means for start-ups to scale. SME-friendly policies are needed to encourage informal markets businesses to formalize. The current policy environment in Africa unfortunately discourages informal business from formalizing their operations. As countries prepare to implement the AfCFTA, they should ensure that the needs of African SMEs and innovators are not overlooked otherwise the arrangement will have no impact for this all-important growth sector. SMEs and informal businesses must not be left behind. This may mean the review of procurement policies and regulations that incentivize formalization, including access to financing and market expansion. In short, the free trade area must find a way to ensure that SMEs and the informal markets are not merely consumers of the agreement but that they are active participants in terms of trade and enterprise.

Thiziri Boukhalfa Content Manager, Sylabs, Algiers, Algeria

Sylabs works for the inclusion of entrepreneurial initiatives, especially young people, in the Algerian economic landscape.


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