Local innovators, entrepreneurs call for action to address challenges facing Africa

Local entrepreneurs and innovators are calling for more practical interventions and support to enable them implement or expand their ventures and hence create more jobs in the economy and boost household earnings. According to Andrew Mugabe, the brain behind Vertical Aeroponic Technology that seeks to remodel vegetable growing business in the country, there is a lot of talk in conferences, with no solid action taken.
 Musanze-based Elyse Habumukiza makes fortified flour from vegetables. African innovators like him need support to expand their ventures.  (File)
Musanze-based Elyse Habumukiza makes fortified flour from vegetables. African innovators like him need support to expand their ventures. (File)

Local entrepreneurs and innovators are calling for more practical interventions and support to enable them implement or expand their ventures and hence create more jobs in the economy and boost household earnings.

According to Andrew Mugabe, the brain behind Vertical Aeroponic Technology that seeks to remodel vegetable growing business in the country, there is a lot of talk in conferences, with no solid action taken. The innovator said his project has been put on hold due to challenges like high taxes and lack of necessary financial and logistical support.

Speaking to The New Times following the announcement of Kigali as the host capital for the second Africa Innovation Summit scheduled for June next year, Mugabe said local innovators want the meeting to find ways to address the key issues facing entrepreneurs and innovators, adding that it should not be “business as usual” where people meet and nothing is implemented.

The entrepreneur cited high cost of production and taxes as some of the huge challenges being faced by innovators and the general business community presently.

“Once you have a prototype, you are supposed to start producing for the mass market. However, this is hard for many entrepreneurs and innovators because of high production costs and taxes which curtail growth of many start-ups and stifle innovation,” he notes.

Aphrodice Mutangana, the owner of FOYO Group, a tech firm that creates software solutions targeting the health and education sectors, said that lack of adequate skills and the small local market are some of the biggest barriers faced by innovators.

“Just like many other African economies, the local market is small; innovators cannot thrive without market for their products. Therefore, African should open up its borders for businesses,” Mutangana, who’s also a manager at k-Lab explains.

“There is also a need for African countries to promote and support innovators to acquire relevant skills and capital for entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive and contribute to the continent’s development efforts.”

The two entrepreneurs say these are some of the issues that next year’s innovation summit should address.

According to a statement from the organisers, Ihaba, a Cape Verde-based business development organisation, the three-day event slated for June 6-8, 2018 will take place at the Kigali Convention Centre. It will focus on finding innovative and disruptive solutions for major challenges facing African countries, which include access to energy and water, health systems, and food insecurity.

“We are excited about the AIS II and looking forward to engaging everyone through this partnership with the Government of Rwanda to find innovative solutions to the challenges facing the continent,” said Jose Brito, the managing partner of Ihaba during the announcement of Rwanda as host on Monday.

Convening participants with ‘power to act’

As a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue and action, the innovation summit will bring together participants with the “power to act” from Africa and elsewhere, including Heads of States and governments, ministers and other government officials, heads of the regional and continental organisations.

It also convenes business leaders, start-up operators, investors, academics, researchers, policy-makers, science and technology experts, and innovators to seek solutions to challenges on the continent and mobilise for collective action.

The summit will also host an exhibition by 50 African small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) and institutions with scalable innovative ideas, products and services, while young people will participate in a ‘Youth Innovation Challenge, organisers said in the statement.

Supporting govt agenda

According to the Minister for Information Technology and Communication, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the summit is in line with the national agenda which seeks to put the country at the forefront of finding creative solutions to developmental challenges.

“We are, therefore, delighted to welcome Africa Innovation Summit delegates to Kigali for this continental event focused on finding answers to some of the perennial challenges facing the continent,” he said in the statement. The Government promotes innovation in Africa  and has been engaging various stakeholders to ensure a conducive environment for innovation.

The inaugural innovation summit in Cape Verde in 2014 brought together different industry players, including President Paul Kagame.

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