Open Innovation Af...

Open Innovation Africa Summit helps plot path forward for Africa's innovators

Nairobi, 30 May 2012 — After an intense three days of animated discussion and debate, the second Open Innovation Africa Summit concluded with an inspiring, vibrant group of Africa's top innovators committing to a firm path forward for innovation across the continent.

The conference, which kicked off with a stirring address from Kenya’s Permanent Secretary within the Ministry for ICT, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, challenged many of the continent’s brightest minds to identify opportunities and challenges, and then plot an actionable path forward that will boost innovation in Africa. Summit attendees took part in rigorous discussion groups in one of four streams—Ecosystem for Innovation, eTransformation, Technology Financing, and Mobile Information Society—which they chose based on their background, passions and skills. Each of these streams then reported back to all the summit attendees, with some highlights being:

In the Ecosystem for Innovation stream, the group proposed a number of initiatives including StartUp Heaven, a series of events that seeks to increase investment in entrepreneurs across East Africa. This idea was particularly viable due to the existence of key infrastructure in markets like Uganda and Kenya, with the group committing to launch the initiative before the next summit.

Ideas in the Technology Financing stream included an online portal for closing the information gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and a project which centered on the often discussed topic of crowd funding.  The group also presented an idea to create a network of local and regional investment readiness programmes to get SMEs prepared to pitch their ideas to funders. This was a challenge Dr. Ndemo identified at the very start of the conference when he stated, “The discipline among the innovators has not met the demand of those that provide the funding. We still have some level of discipline we need to instill among innovators.”

Mobile Banking Services for All was one of the bold ideas that came from the eTransformation stream, intended to create a mobile banking mechanism that enables incumbent banks, money transfer providers and new entrants to provide banking services through mobile channels. This stream also presented the Open Climate Change Data Platform, which proposed using ICT applications and solutions to address environmental challenges in Africa.

The Mobile Information Society stream was the last to present their ideas and, appropriately, most of their designs centred around connecting many of the distinct projects that are underway on the continent. GetAPP, a content distribution system for the ‘un-webbed’, focused on solving the break in the current value chain by using the inherently social nature of African consumers. This set the scene for the final presentation which was simply titled ‘connecting the dots’, aimed at establishing a simple communication channel between the various ‘hubs and labs’ that exist across Africa.

"It was great to have even more African innovators and entrepreneurs at this year’s OIAS. Their interaction brought forth many interesting ideas. We really saw the promise and potential of Africa’s innovation leaders and we hope they continue to build links with one another,” added Valerie D’ Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager.

This year’s OIAS was the second such conference to be held in the Kenyan capital and was organized by Nokia, CapGemini and infoDev, the World Bank’s technology entrepreneurship and innovation program. In closing the conference Nokia’s VP of Corporate Relations and Business Environment, Jussi Hinkkanen, said, “The ideas that were presented are fantastic and now we need to focus on execution. The buildings and organizations facilitating innovation are not as important as the spirit of collaboration and openness. It is very clear from the past three days that very small things can certainly create a massive impact.”

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