While the pandemic is presenting challenges, the drive for innovation remains strong right across Africa. Given the dominance of SMEs in the global economy and the preponderance of the informal sector on Africa’s economy, the region now faces a unique opportunity to unleash the potential of SMEs to dramatically increase overall economic prosperity. This enormous potential combined with a strong African innovation DNA indicates that the time to build a resilient innovative Africa is now. This is a process of change that cannot happen overnight because of the stretched resources that every African nation faces. The conclusions of this Insights Report provide a practical roadmap to nurture African innovation. The objective is to broaden support fromall quarters, fromAfrican governments tomultinational corporations, and highlight opportunities to build the desired resiliency in the regional innovation ecosystem.
Broad-based support from networks of influential stakeholders is needed nowmore than ever to safeguard SME sector resilience in both the formal and informal markets. This calls for measures to ensure the continuityof trade, innovation, and enterprise despite challenges posed byCOVID-19.Workmust therefore be done to strengthen the foundations of the innovation ecosystem in Africa and make it more resilient in the face of adversity. This Report highlights important policy developments such as the enactment of start-up acts and laws in African countries such as Senegal, Tunisia, and nowRwanda, and the increased focus on innovation R&D in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, SouthAfrica and Botswana amongst others. These developments serve as important foundations for greater adoption across other African countries. Together, African innovation stakeholders, including the diaspora, have the capacity to drive innovation inclusivity amongst women and the informal markets. As most African entrepreneurs arewomen, supporting them through the multitude of challenges attached to building capacity greatly increase their chances of success.
COVID-19 has provided the continent with opportunities to do things differently and to reimagine the African SME as the single most important enabler of widespread socio-economic development. The ‘Homegrown Heroes’ section of the Report represents only a small microcosm of the thousands of African success stories that are part and parcel of the continent’s innovation DNA. The time has come to draw from this wealth of inspiration that already exists on the continent and to nurture a culture of valuing all that is intrinsically African, including language, culture, currency, and role models to pave the way for growth inclusion, and innovation.
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