Building a Resilient Innovative Africa in a COVID-19 world

Hub Perspectives Southern Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused young innovators and entrepreneurs to push barriers and develop new approaches on how to solve challenges for their communities. At a time when we are seeing new ideas come out of a period of crisis, it is important for policymakers and innovation enablers to ensure there are no barriers to innovation. The fragmented nature of innovation with multiple stakeholders calls for increased collaboration and appreciation of the strengths that each brings to the table. When the pandemic first hit in Mozambique, we quickly convened other hubs in our network to create a community support plan, with initial efforts focused on the manufacturing of freely available masks and provision of water. Stronger collaborative efforts are required across other sectors, with governments and corporations, hubs, and local innovators working towards a common goal. This is not to say that African innovation hubs are not being supported by the public and private sector. We are, but this could be done with a lot more impact by developing and sharing of locally available skills and by the embracing of roles. Hubs play a role in clearly identifying what the needs of the marginalized communities are, whilst the public and private sector must ensure inclusivity and embrace open innovation. The ecosystem also needs to be more intentional in how innovation is supported, with those that are closely linked to national development agendas and community needs being prioritized. Corruption specifically must be nipped in the bud as historically this has been the greatest culprit in excludingmarginalized communities in Africa. Even when there are resources available for these vulnerable groups, decision makers do not channel them appropriately. Curbing corruption would begin the process of true inclusion in the innovation space. The AfCFTA presents opportunities for African innovation to scale beyond borders, but policymakers must first create favorable environments for SMEs and innovators to benefit from it. This will happen if policy in Africa is seen purely through national development lenses. We must begin to insist that policymakers are not businesspeople with personal interests at play.

Etelvino José Armando Executive Director, Iniciativa para Democracia e Cidadania, Maputo, Mozambique

IDC is a civil society organization that identifies itself with the objectives and pillars of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, specifically preventive anti-corruption policies and practices. Since its inception, IDC has launched a range of activities aimed at combating corruption.


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