Last week 200 leaders from 25 countries around the world gathered in Kenya to discuss the role of innovation in sustainable socio-economic development in African nations.
Attendees of the first-ever Open Innovation Africa Summit included public policy specialists, researchers, entrepreneurs, Information Communication Technology (ICT) experts and financiers. With Nokia as the event sponsor, the discussion also centered on mobile technology and its role in building an information ecosystem.
Africa has the highest penetration growth rate for mobile phones in the world, up to 39 percent in 2008 from 0.5 per cent in 1998. It is expected to reach 69 percent by 2014. Purnima Kochikar, vice president of Forum Nokia and Developer Communities said the absence of relevant local content presents an untapped opportunity to spur innovation and small entrepreneurship to economically empower Africa.
As Africa has become linked to the rest of the world through fiber optic cable, many of its countries are experiencing economic growth, as high as 12% GDP, and becoming increasingly attractive business environments.
Technology offers the region an opportunity to harness its most valuable resource, a dense population, according to Nokia Vice President for Government Relations and Business Environment in Middle East and Africa. Jussi Hinkkanen said human capital is fundamental to any form of innovation and challenged the continent to exploit this resource.
There is great potential for Africa to be the next innovation success story if education and training can provide people with the skills needed to generate the creativity, inquisitive thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset that spurs innovation.
Nokia is fully invested in that potential, with 16 offices in Africa. “Further developing telecommunications systems not only helps grow businesses, but also has great potential to help improve basic life needs such as health care and education. It can also ease access to banking services including micro-payments, and makes access to information easier, thus enabling people to take part in decision-making and development of the communities,” said a Nokia spokesperson.