ICT Clinic (Punch Newspaper)

AfriLabs and the quest to deepen innovation in Africa [ICT Clinic]

Africa is regarded by many as the last frontier. A continent so blessed yet, not functioning anywhere near 50 per cent of its capacity. The future and prosperity of Africa lies vastly on how she is able to solve some of her most pressing challenges and this depends on how innovative her people become.
Innovation would certainly make a whole lot of difference in helping the African continent leapfrog development. This is because I am of the opinion that developing and implementing technology-centred innovative solutions is one sure way of drastically reducing the hydra-headed problem of corruption, which is the bane of Africa’s slow development. It does not stop there. Innovation, fused into technology solutions, will effectively tackle problems in education, healthcare, agriculture, transportation and many more. We certainly have the human resources to solve our own problems, but the big question is: how ready are we?
The quest to embrace innovation and learn from some of the most innovative minds on the continent propelled me to attend the 2018 edition of AfriLabs annual gathering. It is an annual event that provides a unique opportunity for tech hubs in the AfriLabs network and other stakeholders such as start-ups, corporate entities, investors, academia and developmental agencies to convene, network and share knowledge.
This year’s gathering was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with the theme, ‘Innovation in the data age’ and featured speakers from across the continent. The Chairperson of AfriLabs Board, Rebecca Enonchong, in her welcome remarks, praised the efforts of the innovation ecosystem on the continent, but also stressed the need to ensure that policies are strengthened to support entrepreneurs. She stated that across the continent, we can see Africans innovating rapidly in various sectors. The question that hubs and innovation centres have to answer is how can we take that innovation and creativity and turn it into more opportunities and jobs for the continent. We must ensure that we turn ideas into viable, scalable businesses, if the continent must grow.
One sad experience that I must point out is that the government of Tanzania treated us badly, particularly, those of us from Nigeria. The first set of participants that got into Tanzania, got detained, for close to 10 hours and some nearly got deported because the country’s visa policy was changed a night before the gathering. Interestingly, our next door neighbour, Ghana, did not require a visa to get into the country. Quite an embarrassing experience I must say, I therefore call on the government to ensure that her citizens are treated with respect, particularly, by other — Finish Reading on the Punch