Building a Resilient Innovative Africa in a COVID-19 world

Hub Perspectives Central Africa

To ensure innovation inclusivity, policymakers and other innovation enablers should open their doors to the local innovation communities and be willing to listen to their views. Local innovators regardless of social status, gender or creed have regimental ways of working that get things done in the most effective ways possible. They are closely aligned to the needs of communities at a grassroots level. Policymakers and other innovation enablers should begin to view these innovation communities as equal partners in creating national solutions, but it is only through Africa’s innovation hubs that they can facilitate this. At present, many of these hubs are not sufficiently supported. In some African countries, public and private sector stakeholders still do not truly appreciate the value that African innovation hubs bring to ecosystems. These relationships must be consciously nurtured. The value of innovation communities in driving socioeconomic development in Africa cannot be denied but it is up to us hubs to develop new and innovative ways to showcase their impact. We need to do a better job of telling these stories. For example, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wenak Labs fabricated an Automatic Gel Distributor to promote hygiene and aid in the curbing of diseases. We had expected that this initiative would demonstrate the importance and potential of innovation hubs and their alignment with local innovation communities and grassroots needs, but it was not until after the pandemic hit that it became a locally manufactured product. There is clearly still a lot of work to be done to strengthen public and private sector support for African innovation at the level needed. Policymakers have set the framework for innovation but adoption at the national level is needed for innovation hubs to start seeing the allocation of public funds to support their important work. The private sector must take an active part in working with hubs to drive homegrown innovation. We will then see the advance of marginalized groups where brilliant ideas are birthed.

Abdelsalam Safi Executive Director, Wenak Labs, N'DJamena, Chad

Wenak Labs is an innovation and co-creation hub in Chad focused on social impact, skill acquisition, job creation, and youth engagement.


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