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MEDIA RELEASE: 5th infoDev Global Forum on Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship

East London International Convention Centre, 28-31 May 2013

East London, 28 May 2013 - The 5th infoDev Global Forum on Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship started today at the East London International Convention Centre in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

InfoDev is a programme of the World Bank in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) for development.  The Global Forum is held every two years to provide entrepreneurs, investors, development practitioners, policy-makers, international aid representatives and innovation enthusiasts a chance to exchange insights and learn from the most innovative businesses in developing countries.  It will explore how innovations can boost job-led growth and tackle economic and social needs, while using the full power of ICTs and green technologies.

It is being held in partnership with the South African Department of Science and Technology and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government under the theme "harnessing innovative entrepreneurship for social and economic growth". 

The Forum will facilitate learning, business matchmaking and knowledge sharing, with a special focus on the needs of African entrepreneurs and innovators.  It is being held on African soil for the first time.

The forum is attended by the World Bank Vice-President for Financial and Private Sector Development, Janamitra Devan, the South African Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, the Premier of the Eastern Cape, Noxolo Kieviet, and leading businesspeople, with delegates from more than 60 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Mr Devan said that he saw the Global Forum spurring on new businesses and increased job creation, the number one challenge in today's global economy.

"The success of new ideas ... will be crucial in renewing job growth worldwide and in promoting inclusive growth and shared prosperity, which are especially high priorities for countries where inequality is a major concern," said Janamitra.

He said policies were vital, but that they had to be developed correctly if they were to create conditions for entrepreneurship.

Mr Devan explained that the driving force of creativity was innovators themselves, while government was responsible for offering support through effective policy and funding. 

"That is what we are aiming to encourage here through the infoDev "Top 50" competition, which rewards some of the most promising start-ups from the developing world.  In my mind, this is at the core of this Global Forum: creating new jobs, and providing dramatic new opportunities," said the Vice-President.

In his opening address, Minister Hanekom said that his department supported research, development and innovation activities to contribute to a more competitive economy through the development of small enterprises.

"The Global Forum has given the African continent an opportunity to benefit from global experiences on how to stimulate more technology-based innovation," he said.

He added, "It is good to see Africa embracing its role in advancing the global innovation agenda, at the same time empowering her citizens, creating jobs and growing the economy. African innovators are increasingly receiving global recognition in important technology areas."

The Minister mentioned PriceCheck, a South African mobile shopping application which had received the coveted BlackBerry Application of the Year Award in the US the previous week, fending off stiff competition from 100 000 other applications from around the globe.  This application allows users to check prices before making purchases.  Another African innovation, the internationally recognised M-Pesa system from Kenya, has given millions of previously sidelined people access to banking services. The mobile application development laboratory, mLab, established in 2011 at the Innovation Hub through a partnership with infoDev, is assisting 11 start-ups with the development or commercialisation of mobile services.

Minister Hanekom informed delegates that the South African Cabinet had recently approved an ICT Research, Development and Innovation Implementation Roadmap for South Africa – a long-term investment and implementation plan to deliver significant socio-economic impact through a coherent portfolio of interventions and programmes aligned with the National Development Plan.

Premier Noxolo Kiviet said the global forum would assist in creating a global network of innovation and technology entrepreneurs who, in various ways, would assist in stimulating research and business growth.

“South Africa is one of the countries that have increasingly realised the importance of innovation and technology in leveraging socio-economic development. In tandem with that, our province has also over the recent past increased focus on creating innovation instruments and platforms,” the Premier said.

Media enquiries:

InfoDev: Angela Bekkers: (in South Africa): +27 60 387 8650

Department of Science and Technology: Tommy Makhode:  +27 82 379 8268

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