Advice
African Entrepreneurs & Innovation
October 14, 2014
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There is little doubt that the African continent is in for an exciting voyage of growth and development, both of which are being fuelled by recent investment and significant advances in the world of entrepreneurship and innovation. Within the next forty years, Africa will be home to the world’s largest workforce, as the continent’s total population is expected to reach 2 billion people by 2050. In 2013, six African countries made it to the list the world’s top ten fastest-growing economies. With an economy worth over $509.9 billion, Nigeria officially has the world’s 26th largest economy. Where do these figures take us with regards to entrepreneurship and innovation?
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Where is Africa right now in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship?

Pretoria-born trend analyst and consultant Dion Chang has repeatedly spoken about the potential of the African private sector to really take off and to make the most of all the available opportunities for growth. According to Chang, innovation is already a reality in many parts of the continent, and more importantly, innovation is becoming a force that drives change and that can help move the continent’s economy forward. For example, speaking at the last Green Building Convention, Chang made reference to Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah project, a multi-billion dollar venture that hopes to create more than 20,000 jobs in the IT sector by 2015.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Intel Capital’s managing director Marcin Hejka expressed his positive vision for Africa’s future, claiming that innovation could drive massive economic change within the next ten years. Hejka made reference to some large investments that have already been made in the African ICT sector (especially regarding mobile technologies), and affirmed that these provide the basis for the creation of African-owned multi-billion dollar firms in the near future.

It is also worth mentioning that in recent years, a number of organisations have been established with the objective of supporting the endeavours of African innovators. This is the case of the African Innovation Foundation or the African Enterprise Challenge Fund.

African innovators and entrepreneurs will soon have another opportunity to showcase their ideas at the upcoming Innovation Africa Summit, which will take place in Kigali between 18-20 November. Entrepreneurs will be able to pre-book one-to-one meetings with leading figures in the public and private education and IT sectors. The Summit’s programme also includes panel discussions, presentations, and opportunities for networking, which make attendance to this event compulsory for all African innovators and entrepreneurs.

 

Angolan-born philanthropist and entrepreneur Dr Alvaro Sobrinho believes there is a bright future for innovators & entrepreneurs in Africa: “Alongside the national African governments, the big international organizations, particularly UNESCO and the World Bank, are certainly important players. International businesses, such as Nokia and Vodafone have also been heavy early investors in the projects and programs already running, as has the telecoms industry association the GSMA. There are also lots inspiring independent initiatives, such as the new SmartWoman Project.

In the future, I hope to see more local ownership and more involvement from the emerging start-up technology scene in Africa. The boom in African tech/innovations hubs is supporting entrepreneurs and new wave of local technology-centric businesses – I hope these hubs will play an increasingly large part of all mobile developments on the continent, including education.”

Trustee of UK & Rwanda-based charity Planet Earth Institute, Alvaro Sobrinho has his own interests invested in Africa as he triumphs a scheme to help bring up new entrepreneurs through his own initiative and investments in PHD centres on the continent:

“To me, scientific independence means having science, technology and innovation embedded in government policies alongside resourced and empowered institutions, including universities. It means the ability to produce – and keep! – many more brilliant scientists and to have science in the societal consciousness as a public good for us all.

 

Scientific Independence will be achieved when Africa is using innovation and research to move from knowledge consumption to knowledge creation, impacting every part of our daily life, from better healthcare systems to smarter food storage or agriculture.”

 

More from Dr Alvaro Sobrinho here.