Highlights of the African Chapter at World Innovators Meet 2020

December 28, 2020
Open Innovation


Highlights of the African Chapter at World Innovators Meet 2020

The Africa Chapter welcomed such a good representation of delegates from African countries all over the continent, from the North to the South and West to East including Ghana, Tunisia, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

On December 9-11, 2020, EqualOcean hosted this year's World Innovators Meet (WIM2020). Due to the unprecedented events regarding COVID-19, WIM2020 took on a bolder stance and adopted a more global outlook by taking the form of an online conference that was streamed simultaneously in all countries and regions that champion the realms of technology and innovation.

The chapter kicked off with a panel discussion moderated by Luuk Eliens, Chief Commercial Officer at XNode. The purpose of the discussion was to explore how African Tech change-makers are shaping Africa’s future. From the perspective of our Africa Entrepreneurs Murendeni Mafumo (founder of Kusini Water) and Roy Njoka (Digital Innovation and Marketing Leader), the potential for technological growth in Africa is evident – but the truth is, African countries are still facing challenges related to infrastructure, education, security and services. Despite the adverse effects on countries and markets, there is a unique opportunity for innovators in Africa to re-think the technological innovations that will help the continent deal with the pandemic in the short-term and the long-term.

How to improve the African innovation ecosystem?

China could seize an important opportunity – to extend its position on the content. There is a natural flow of goods from Africa to China, but the region needs an increase in the transfer of services and information. Africa needs to collaborate and move forward in a digital space seeking partnerships with China. The telecommunication industry and digital space represent a good opportunity for looking at a partnership in China and responding to the integration of manufacturing in Africa.

For those techpreneurs, the entrepreneurial journey is long, difficult and full of challenges. But Roy Njoka set the bar high, with a message to future entrepreneurs: “It’s really hard to start a business – it’s not given to anyone, but for those who do decide to go on that journey, it’s important to know the road is not easy, so do not drop it and give up, especially not on the first trial. If I could tell something to my younger self, it would be to not give up on the first failures, and go on.”

Moving on to the next session, we had the pleasure to welcome an entrepreneur, ecosystem builder and digital transformation expert, Amel Saidane, co-founder of Betacube, who shared her insight about:

Africa tech and startup ecosystem with a zoom-in Tunisia.

Nowadays, the young entrepreneurs do not feel the borders and the restrictions – In Tunisia, there is no legal existence for freelancers and the skills required to be an entrepreneur need to be developed – to tackle this challenge and not discourage young entrepreneurs, the country needs more incubators that can cover the whole lifecycle of a startup. “It’s about daring new things as an entrepreneur and discovering its own journey. The essence of entrepreneurship is about solving problems. And with the Africa continent, there is hope with this new generation.” Our African speakers are all dedicated to creating a positive message in their countries, and an ecosystem framework to enable transformation – the next speaker has contributed his career in developing Africa’s energy sector.

Bako Ambianda, CEO of Labacorp Group, shared his insights on the Solar Power Technology Revolution.

Known as the ‘Sun continent,’ it is no surprise to anyone that Africa receives more sunlight than any other continent. Despite the large solar potential, the penetration of solar power in Africa’s energy sector remains relatively low. And this is where Mr. Ambianda steps in, through Labacorp company, committed to providing access to sustainable power in Africa.

“There is an increase in the demand for solar energy for electricity, and the solar business is a profitable source of income. It is therefore paramount to prepare entrepreneurs to meet this rising solar energy need. The goal of Labacorp Solar Academy is to sustain the institution and expand it across the emerging market”.

Why is the need for this energy crucial? Energy is the bedrock of inclusive economic growth in Africa, but two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity. Lower-income households, a lack of energy infrastructure, lack of access to financial affordability, challenges in awareness and access to technical support services are a few of the big challenges Africa is facing.

Nevertheless, the declining cost of solar energy is creating opportunities for all Africans to save money on their energy bills. Solar penetration in Africa will mimic cellphones because there is an opportunity to skip the centralized grid (like landlines) and make up for the capacity/availability issues that are cost-prohibitive for the governments to solve immediately.

The future of young entrepreneurs was a major theme in the Africa Chapter – Emmanuel Gamor believes firmly in African Culture being key to unlocking innovation in Africa. In his keynote speech, he shared his vision on the opportunities for Young Entrepreneurs in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

In education services, Africa needs to be able to have young people who are educated, competitive and able to work with other cultures like Chinese, Asian, European, and at a level to understand the world and what is going on.

A true ambassador of Africa on a global level, Emmanuel strongly believes we should help and guide the young entrepreneurs, who are the future of our world, and he firmly believes in African Culture being key to unlocking innovation in Africa.

Samuel Ansong, CTO of Duapa Africa, specializes in Artificial Intelligence and shared his vision of the future: Intelligence, Africa’s AI innovation in vital sectors. “When some people think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), they think of humanoid robots turning against their creators in an apocalyptic science fiction movie. In reality, AI is already playing an increasing role in many existing and evolving Technologies.” In the digital economy, Africa is on the rise due to the expansion of the Tech Ecosystem. The continent is experiencing a demographic boom that is largely young and urban. Unlike Germany with a median age of 47.1, the US at 38.1, or China at 37.7, the median age in Africa is 19.5. In addition, this demographic of African youth is expected to double to 225 million by 2055.

With all the facts laid out, Samuel summarized his thoughts on AI’s innovation impact in Africa. AI depends on robust digital foundations, which include the availability of large volumes of data – usually referred to as “big data.” Machines can analyze this data to learn, make connections and arrive at decisions. But AI also relies on significant know-how among its human adopters: industry leaders must know how to successfully implement AI into their operations, and consumers must be comfortable with its use (and that includes a reasonable assurance of data privacy).

The Global Innovation Index indicates that IT Software and services had the largest VC funding in Africa. African tech Start-ups raised a total of $2.2bn in 2019, which was 74% YoY growth from 2018. But again, 41% was concentrated on Fintech, 85% went to 4 countries only (SA, Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt), and 17% for female founders. More still needs to be done here.

Ending the chapter in a blaze of glory, the last panel included Hannah Subayi Kamuanga, PE and VC Investor in Africa, Adebola Omolulu, Cofounder of GetFundedAfrica, Sean Gotkin, Chief of Staff and partnerships lead at Carry1st and George Appiah, Executive Director at Ghana Tech Lab and Heather Li, founder of DotConnector and moderator of the panel, discussing the role of cross-continental collaboration in development of Africa’s tech ecosystem.

The building of a technology ecosystem in Africa must have an underlying purpose and, particularly given the macro-environmental fundamentals prevalent in Africa, that purpose must be to create an enabling environment that drives inclusive growth. “Funding is not always the issue; investors’ readiness is not even the main problem. But entrepreneurs at the startup level should really focus on building quality businesses with a long-term vision, attractive business models and sustainable milestones.”

Our African innovators and entrepreneurs have been making tremendous efforts in creating and accelerating projects, all with the view of creating the much-needed products, technologies and business ventures that Africa requires and propel the continent to greater technological heights.

About WIM

Hosted by EqualOcean, the World Innovators Meet (WIM) is a world-class event for innovators. It provides limitless opportunities to learn from and connect with the most sought-after technology pioneers.

About WIA

The World Innovation Awards (WIA) are announced at WIM to recognize game-changers across various industries and geographies. Selected by a committee of distinguished experts, entrepreneurs and investors, WIA are designed to acknowledge technology disruptors striving to make a positive impact.

See this year's WIA lists and download the research reports in English and Chinese on EqualOcean and 亿欧智库 respectively.