Building a sustainable ecosystem of innovators requires countries to take advantage of the youth who make the biggest part of African population, experts from the public and private sector said.
During a sideline event organised by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on Wednesday at the ongoing Transform Africa Summit, leaders shared their experiences and cited Rwanda’s case as an example to build a sustainable ICT innovation ecosystem.
Janet Longmore, the president and CEO of Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), said they believe young people are the early adopters of technology, appealing exactly to what they want to do in their lives, which is to use technology to drive social change, and create jobs for others.
“As DOT, we have made it our strategy to listen to the young people in all of the countries and to engage with them during the programmes’ designing as well as delivery,” she noted.
Longmore cited the case of their success in Rwanda and explained that engaging the youth has made unprecedented impact to the entire innovations ecosystem.
“For example, in Rwanda we have launched the Digital Ambassadors’ Programme with the Ministry of Youth and ICT, and they will be working with the people of Rwanda as facilitators of digital learning. They get to identify problems easily and consequently get to create and innovate to address them,” she said.
Devising a user approach based on the needs of the communities will make youth develop more innovative solutions, she said, adding that bringing women on board will also accelerate development and bridge the digital gap.
The Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, told participants that Rwanda to put in place friendly policies that enable the ICT use among all people.
“The post-Genocide challenges required good leadership, and within the process of rebuilding the country we realised that building an ICT ecosystem had more benefits and a long-term impact. We had a purpose, right partners and saw profits within this area,” he said.
Dr Hamadoun Toure, the executive director of Smart Africa Initiative, said having the right partners is always an assurance that every component of the economic development can be sustainably achieved.
Toure pointed out that increasing investment in capacity building, in particular content and software development, will accelerate the growth of Africa’s ICT innovation ecosystem.
He said this can be achieved through building infrastructure like data centres where Africa can manage their own data.
The experts said that utilising the human resource and empowering more women is a force to drive economic development.
Other challenges that still block Africa from achieving a digital revolution experts said, include lack of skills to effectively and efficiently innovate, and lack of capital.