Big Ideas to Boost Innovation in Africa
Open innovation competition ahead of the Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS²) generates insightful ideas to make it easier for entrepreneurial and innovative Africans to realise their visions.
Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS²), Kenya
There is no shortage of innovators and creative talents across the African continent. However, there are a number of factors that make it more difficult for their innovations and ideas to see the light of day. These include lack of access to sources of finance and weak or non-existent innovation ecosystems.
Poor Innovation Record
According to the Global Innovation Index 2011 - a report that ranks 125 countries/economies across the world in terms of their innovation capabilities and results – 24 countries from Sub- Saharan Africa were included in the rankings, but none made it to the top 30, and 17 were ranked within the bottom 25.
The second Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS²) in May 2012 was a platform for entrepreneurs, policy makers, researchers, financiers and other stakeholders to discuss and debate ideas around strengthening Africa’s innovation ecosystem and supporting the emergence of Africa’s innovators and entrepreneurs.
To stimulate conversations, not just amongst participants but also on the Internet the summit launched a global open innovation contest that challenged participants to come up with ideas to make it easier for innovators to realize their enterprising visions.
And that meant looking for societal, structural, financial and technical development changes that would boost innovation leadership at individual, community and institutional level.
During the short submission period more than 100 ideas were received and they were evaluated on their novelty, potential impact on society and scalability.
There were three winning ideas:
• Paa – by Eugene Aroka from Kenya. A microfinance model to help Kenyan youth become successful entrepreneurs. This would address one of the biggest problems faced by Africa’s young innovators – the start-up capital required to get their ideas off the drawing board is typically beyond their means. Paa is a Swahili word which means `to fly'.
• Yiiya – by Tonny Katongole from Uganda. This is a social network for innovators to share their ideas with the public, investors and peers. The platform can also be used to showcase success stories. Many ideas do not progress because of lack of motivation. Yiiya addresses that by providing monthly motivational events, based on the premise that people sometimes do not realize their full potential until somebody is talking about it.
• LEC (Local Enterprise Circles) – by Joe Rice from the UK. This is a concept that provides a means for investors to finance new firms or to help the growth of existing companies, thereby creating jobs and opportunities for local people. LECs are local exchanges based on chambers of commerce where individual or corporate investors invest funds to stimulate growth of an enterprise.
The contest winners were rewarded with a trip to the open innovation summit in Nairobi and a chance to present their ideas to an assembled mass of renowned and respected thought leaders. It was a huge opportunity to address movers and shakers about how ideas in Africa can be transformed into successful businesses.
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