Are we as Africans rising up to the challenge of innovation?


A critical assessment on whether Africans are participating in the global innovation race and are we growing towards restructuring towards an innovative continent.

We as the youth of Africa today, are faced with many challenges in our journey to success, our screens are constantly inundated with western success stories and new inventions, which are adequately profiled and marketed throughout every platform. However in Africa very few and seldom stories come to light, which begs the question, are we a strong participant globally? And how do we fare against other economic giants.
The western ideologies of success, is what most of the African youth are accustomed to, which gives one a sense that majority of the avenues; in as much as 200 million people aged between 15-24 form part of the youngest population in the world. We are not exposed to careers or ideas that aren’t perpetuated by tabloid media. The youth is unfortunately still nestled in a society that does not enrich innovation or a society that is willing to provide the tools, which would aid in your steps towards simple techniques and processes in reaching your goals.
Diving into this research, it was quite heart-warming to find articles by outsiders, who have created this great love story, on how Africa is made up of the youth and against great internal adversary, within extreme poverty conditions and dwindling economic growth prospects, coupled with minimal access to quality education. We as the African youth equate to being magical superheroes that under such circumstances, still manage to rise above it all.
In an article written by Phil Mckinney, he states that even though were previously seen as a “dark continent”, Africa has become a “hot bed of innovation” and “many smart investors are taking notice”. I don’t doubt his sentiments but the reality is, most “smart investors” are few and far between, especially those that are not interested in mass capital gain. Following this Mckinney, continues to state that given our “population age, the continent of Africa is the youngest in the world and if the talent are invested, mentored and developed, there is huge potential return or loss if we are left behind.” As an insider, this only gives a surface impression of what is really going on, as a continent painted as an emerging market and economic contender. There are a lot of contributing factors at play that continuously play at our own demise. Unfortunately our political landscape, deviates from any true reforms, those being the various youth development programs that pop-up every year with a new increased budget, which a number of youth are hardly in a position to gain access to.
The following hurdles identified by the African Institute of Technology, outline a more realistic view of what the African youth are facing; Government registration, IP rights, formal access to banking. How will “smart investors” calculate value and make a decision to invest, if I as a remote African inventor am operating under an informal business model.
It is quite evident that our government sets up financial reforms that inadvertently become the seed of our failures, hidden behind the mirage of another soon to be black success story. As the African institute of technology quite aptly puts it, Africa is an “Invention economy” and has yet to reach its capability of becoming an “Innovative economy” with competitive local products and services.
K.C. Maghalu writes; “We should now consider why African countries, must invest in science and technology, how science creates wealth and what Africa must do to achieve this, ‘new liberation’ – using it’s untapped natural wealth, human resources and effective policy execution to create explosive wealth that by-passes western led globalization.”
Africa needs an education system, which teaches the youth that ideas matter. That ideas lead to systems that could change the continent as a whole, which streamlines the continent into a more progressive contender. We are not taught that how we think culminates into wealth, not just as an individual but for every African.
In comparison to our G20 peers, Asia is currently accounts for 60% of the global growth, and what supports that growth is directly linked to their domestic policies, accompanied by low interest rates and fiscal stimulus. To learn from our neighbours, would be beneficial in moving from an “Invention economy toward an “Innovation economy”. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, after implementing the science and technology policy stated the following profound outlook on the future; “Nowhere in this world now, can you move your economy without science and technology… because we have no choice, without it we are just dreaming.”
As the youth of Africa, I fully trust in the fact that we are without a doubt rising up to the challenge of innovation as a continent, however we are increasingly marred by non-compliant governmental policies that would aid in moving countries forward. African governments need to make science and technology a strategic priority, we cannot continue to rely on western innovations to solve African teething troubles and still aim to form part of a global competitor. Without it we stand to remain a stagnant continent, another failed attempt for the history books, with remnants of a youth that may have potentially changed the world, thee Africa that never could.