Ghana, served as host for the first ever AfriLabs Gathering which brought together over 30 hubs across the African continent. The event was sponsored by Making All Voices Count and Microsoft4Afrika and supported by a host of other partners. The annual gathering was a unique opportunity for members and other stakeholders to convene, learn the latest hub insights, and build partnerships between and with hubs. Unlike other technology conferences focused on just big government or telecoms’, this gathering focused on the grass root innovation Eco-system, their donors and the local players.
The annual gathering was a unique opportunity for members and other stakeholders to convene, learn the latest hub insights, and build partnerships between and with hubs. Unlike other technology conferences focused on just big government or telcos, this gathering will focus on the grass root innovation eco-system, their funders and the local players.
The gathering begun with a boot-camp that brought several entrepreneurs together to learn, engage and gain insights from a number of stakeholders and learn from the experiences of some hub managers.
Despite the late start of Day 1, the gathering was worth every minute spent listening to the speakers and interacting. In other not to bore the reader, i would share with you some highlights.
Board Chair of Afrilabs — Michael Oluwagbemi in his welcome address, encouraged Africans to build solution to African problems. He shared with the participants Why Africa is poor and how tech can make it rich again. “Africa is the most resource rich continent with both natural and human resources despite the erroneous stereotype of Africa being poor and medieval continent.
As Africans, we ought to brainstorm and think our way through the problems.
Technology can make that happen. Technology doesn’t respect borders, visa and passport control. It offers a way out and a framework through which Africa can relieve itself from all that is been said about it. Students can through technology solve Africa’s problems by building resilient ecosystems
to support. Technology hubs offer solutions to Africa’s high unemployment rate. The aim of tech hubs is to resolve all the social challenges we are surrounded with.”
Dr. Fletcher Tembo — Programme Director, MAVC in his keynote address also stated that “We need to influence the debate about development by supporting doers such as tech hubs. We need to tease out the actors that are disrupting the ecosystems. All the actors in the ecosystem need to think about partnerships and collaboration in other to make the ecosystem count. The idea of the hubs is Grande. It serves as spaces for sharing ideas and building the best perspectives.”
Speaker after speaker shared their perspectives on a number of themes. It is important to note that the following actionable points which trended in most discussions and should lead to some debates aimed at influencing policy.
- There is a need to do more work in terms of empowering women through mentor-ship and capacity building.
- There is a need more “MEST” like institutions around the continent.
- Access to funding and support must be created by governments and private sector players (Telco’s, etc.).
- Engage more women in tech and innovative hub spaces.
- We ought to encourage our universities to embrace disruptive entrepreneurship models.
- Universities must encourage lecturers to become coaches instead of delivering speeches and content which in any case is outmoded.
- Donors should encourage sustainable innovations through funding for such initiatives.
- The curriculum of the educational sector including its policies must be re-looked at.
- Universities must be encouraged to collaborate with Hubs to utilize the enormous research data they have generated to create employment opportunities for its students.
- Also, industry expertise must be given opportunity to serve as facilitators of certain courses or serve as instructors to give students the opportunity to learn from firsthand the experiences and lessons from industry.
- Universities should consider adopting the business models that have proven to have worked in these innovation hubs.
The climax of the event was exhilarating as the panel was packed and the topic for discussion was one many African’s continue to debate about “Technology as a tool for social and Economic Development”. It is evident that in the “4th Industrial Revolution”, Africa does not only get to watch but also plays a very huge role in its success.
In other to be the change, we want to see we must live it. We must start living the Africa we want and re-write our script.
Credit: Sampson Adotey Jnr