Break-out Panel Discussion

Innovation Panel:
Changing the game: Sustainable solutions fuelling the next phase of Africa’s economic development

Grand Ballroom 22 April 2017 14:35 - 15:35

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Ismail Ahmed
Lanre Akinola
Abdelmalek Alaoui
Ramesh Awtaney
Stefano Niavas

Panel Theme:
Changing the game: Sustainable solutions fuelling the next phase of Africa’s economic development

Panel Description:
In an increasingly globalized world, innovation has become a key differentiating feature that can define long-term business success, which in turn leads to economic growth and consequent job creation. Fostering innovation has however often been the privilege of “developed” or wealthy nations, given the high R&D costs associated with it and the investments in human capital required to succeed in this undertaking.

Innovation in Africa exists despite a prevailing developmental environment plagued by deficits in skills, technologies or infrastructure. The traditional investment and development models have largely been characterised by failure with well-meaning, but unsuccessful efforts to push resource and infrastructure investments on the continent. Investors and entrepreneurs need new approaches and perspectives to stimulate growth, and they must closely examine the circumstances in which new ventures thrive and expand. An example that comes to mind is; M-PESA , which is used by millions of Africans to pay their bills and transfer money, save or withdraw cash. M-PESA has transformed the lives of millions who had no access to any financial services and it has created employment for around 3000 people in Nairobi.

Unleashing the power of innovation in Africa can create an important platform for widespread development across the continent. In order to achieve that, we need to invest in the two pillars driving the wealth creation of our continent: our people and our (physical and technological) infrastructure.

Guiding Questions:

  1. What does innovation in Africa really mean? Adapting products / solutions available in developed countries (echoing the philosophy behind “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”) or does it extend beyond this?
  2. How do you identify if a solution is sustainable in an African context? How do you differentiate between a fad and a trend? Differentiating them matter?
  3. What are some examples of innovations from Africa that do not mirror those from developed countries? M-Akiba (the first mobile-only bond)?
  4. What countries and sectors are leading the innovation campaign in Africa? How can they work together to further drive this initiative across the continent?
  5. Where are the key opportunities for innovation in Africa? What is / should be “the next M-PESA / M-Akiba”?
  6. Is innovation in Africa “too big” for SMEs? What are the arguments for and against? What are some success stories?
  7. How are innovators tackling the human capital issues in Africa? Where is talent sourced from and what are the factors required to encourage an innovative attitude?
  8. In what ways has corruption killed innovation? What are some of the other key barriers to innovation in Africa? What countries/sectors provide the least / most barriers?
  9. How does this all fit into a narrative to reduce Africa’s dependence on economic aid?

Panels Overview:

Technology Panel:
Africa and the next wave of digitization

Finance Panel:
Financing African Businesses –
Successes, Challenges and The Way Forward

Energy & Infrastructure Panel:
Resource-full but not yet power-full

Creative Industry Panel:
Maximising Africa’s creative economy

Innovation Panel:
Changing the game: Sustainable solutions fuelling the next phase of Africa’s economic development

Entrepreneurship Panel:
“Made in Africa” Entrepreneurs:
Why, When and How to Build and Invest in an African Start-up?

African Opportunities Panel:
Navigating African career and entrepreneurial opportunities