Ethiopia is a thriving and prospering country. I am experiencing a side of Ethiopia that I have never seen. I loved being in Addis, especially at the African Union (AU) headquarters, and meeting so many wonderful people. The connections and networking opportunities would not have been possible without Restless Development choosing me to participate at the Africa Inclusive Innovation Summit (AIIS). I have been exposed to the work of the Ethiopia Government, the African Union, and companies including Liquid Telecom, and other small organisations throughout Ethiopia and beyond.
On the 20th of August 2019 Liquid Telecom, in partnership with the AU Commission and the MIT Innovation Challenge, hosted the AIIS at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. The Africa Inclusive innovation Summit was themed “bridging Africa’s digital divide,” the africa digital divide has kept people both in rural and urban areas in most of the African countries from taking advantage of public services through the Internet or other ICT channels for sometime now. The AIIS was a home-grown initiative and the discussions were around harnessing the innovation potential of the continent, with young people taking the lead.
The commissioner of Human Resources, Science and Technology H.E Prof. Sara Anyang highlighted the need to mobilise the public and especially those with the ‘power to act’, including investors, innovators, policy makers, researchers, academics, the business community, and young people. The aim is to bring all these people into a coalition for collective action to promote and build an enabling environment for innovation in Africa. Sara’s call aimed at engaging as many people as possible in order to build a broad constituency in support of innovation in Africa.
Furthermore, the AIIS promoted dialogue, facilitated exchange of best practices and experience among stakeholders and African countries, and showcased what is happening on the continent. The platform also had breakaway sessions engaging expert panels, African researchers and scholars, to undertake case studies to tease out lessons of experience in order to facilitate learning by stakeholders. My friend, an alumni of the Youth Think Tank research project with Restless Development, and currently co-founder of the Seeds For Change Organization Zambia, highlighted the prospects of the future of work using technology as a means of creating future economic opportunities for low and middle income earners in Africa and shared the Youth Think Tank hospitality and tourism report recommendations which stated that stakeholders need to collaborate to develop soft skills at all levels in the continent.
The summit ended with an opportunity for the 12 MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge contestants from all over Africa, to moot startups and their potential to solve African problems such as Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Engagement (the 4Es). Four winners were announced, one from each Inclusive Innovation Challenge category to proceed to a Gala at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA on 21 November for the chance to win part of a $1 million global grand prize.
Lastly, l noted from the AIIS that innovation remains one of the most scalable verticals (the ability to increase the capacity of existing hardware or software by adding resources – for example, adding processing power to a server to make it faster) on the African continent and continues to attract significant funding including that offered to the AIIS and its finalists. This is primarily driven by the huge innovation gap, which creates room for disruption. With continuous funding, innovation is going beyond payments and looking at lending and savings too. As such this creates an opportunity to drive scale and innovations through partnerships from all over Africa. Furthermore, the summit was educative, interactive, insightful, and very informative. Participating in summits like these has improved my confidence, exposed me to innovative ways of exploring my potential, created room for career partnerships, networking, inspirations and worthy adventure.