As the ‘Hub Perspectives’ sections highlight, hubs did not wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to subside. They collaborated closely within their innovation ecosystems to immediately address the challenges that the pandemic created, finding home-grown innovative solutions while assisting their members in addressing business critical issues.We have seen, through the incredible speed atwhich somanyAfrican innovators and entrepreneurs have moved to create new digital solutions to COVID-19, that access to digital tools are an extremely important enabler. Indeed, they are crucial. Strengthening the abilities of Africa's innovation hubs to actively encourage and nurture this type of home grown innovation should be a priority not just for governments but also for industry players. This can be achieved by encouraging stronger public and private sector alignment with hubs, increasing funding and capacity development support aswell as in the co-creation of enabling policies and environments to support local innovations.
COVID-19 may have created new hurdles and challenges, but it also presents opportunities for African decision makers to reassess priorities without losing sight of the continent’s targets for the UN SGDs. Realizing these goals requires a continued focus on policies and measures that drive inclusivity. Never has the need for a fundamental rethinking of SME and entrepreneurship policies been greater. Policymakers must shift towards viewing short-to-medium term interventions for SMEs as a matter of national priority– a newpost-COVID formof SME ‘welfare’ that saves jobs and stimulates growth at source. The creation of an enabling national strategy to support SMEs will provide policymakers in Africa with an opportunity to develop bold reforms to help the hundreds of millions of informal workers move towards formalization. Right now, government, private sector, trade finance institutions, and other innovation ecosystem enablers and stakeholders have a role to play in collaborating to provide attractive incentives for informal SMEs to move towards formalization, especially in light of the impending commencement of the AfCFTA. For Africa, the AU Agenda 2063 serves as the ultimate roadmap to a future of innovation resilience. Given the continent’s young demographic, the role of policies in driving education innovation, such as those outlined in the AU’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa, is of paramount importance. There are opportunities for African governments to enlist the support of multinationals and other private sector entities to facilitate the adoption of these policies at national levels, first and foremost through the provision ofwidespread access to internet and data. The opportunity exists to bring the important youth segment into the formal economy through the provision of skills-based education models that reflect the demands of the 21st centuryworkplace. This report comes at a time when the true long-term impacts of COVID-19 remain unknown. The insights and recommendations within it are intended to provide a broad roadmap for the near to long-term future, based on what we know today, and what matters today.
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