African nations have been urged to adopt digital solutions towards achieving economic recovery from the impacts of the Coronavirus Disease pandemic.
At a webinar organized by Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA), International Association of Science Parks and Areas (IASP), Africa Division President and CEO of Abuja Technology Village FZ Co, Nigeria, Ms Hauwa Yabani emphasized the need for utilizing technology and innovation in the search for solutions to challenges facing the continent.
“The pandemic showed us the importance of digitally enhanced solutions in mitigating crisis as a way of living especially for a continent with a population of over 1.3 billion. Digital transformation presents an opportunity for Africa to provide value in new ways thereby leapfrogging the continent’s developing trajectories and accelerating its social and economic advancements,” said Ms Yabani.
Yabani further stated that “The pandemic has been reported to have caused failure to about 30 per cent of small businesses, thereby begging for answers to the question on how to leverage innovation to survive,” adding that it is only through innovation-led approaches that the continent will recover from the pandemic.
Technology, she pointed out, has continued to emerge and the adaption of digital solutions is more important now than ever, a development that is only important for Africa but also the rest of the world.
While reiterating the IASP Africa Division’s support towards supporting innovation, she stressed the need for utilizing rising and existing start-ups in the continent which are critical in advancing the continent’s Free Trade Agreement for the benefit of all Africans.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) created by Africa Union (AU) in 2018 formed a single continent-wide market for goods and services that aims to promote the movement of capital and natural persons in the continent.
The Forum was also attended by Africa Union’s (AU) New Partnership For Africa’s Development (NEPAD) CEO, Amb. Dr Samori Okwiya; KoTDA’s CEO, Eng. John Tanui; Botswana Innovation Hub CEO, Mr Alan Boshwaen; South Africa Innovation Hub and Adv. Pieter Holl, and the global CEO of IASP, Ms Ebba Lund.
The speakers urged countries to enhance collaborations and make use of available knowledge to advance the economies amidst the pandemic.
“There is an urgent need for the enhancement of collaboration between companies and research institutions and the support of both new and existing start-ups. We should utilize the science parks and create more favourable policies for advancing our knowledge-based economy. This is very important for both organizations and governments,” said Ms Lund.
Echoing her remarks, Amb. Dr Okwiya said that Africa Union has created a committee to deepen the continent’s education on science which remains vital in its development.
“It is important to note that the AU has enacted a people-centred long term agenda 2063 which strives to articulate Africa’s sustained growth, competitiveness and economic transformation in new technologies and all developing sectors.
To effectively execute this agenda, science, technology and innovation strategy is one of our pillars to make this happen,” he said.
He added that governments and organizations need to focus on developing the infrastructure to make innovation competitive.
“Currently, we have 409 projects ranging from ICT, roads, power, ports among others being implemented. These projects will create opportunities in innovations as well as several sectors,” he said.
On his part, Eng. Tanui cited innovation as a key enabler in driving economic development among Africa nations and urged participating members to build on innovation infrastructure while bringing together more research stakeholders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we look at the Africa Free Trade, we see the opportunity of opening up connectivity amongst us and so we need to create more interconnection so that we open our trade. This is a great opportunity for Africa and this is what we see as Konza,” said Eng. Tanui.
The forum brought together IASP leadership, global players in the technology space and key stakeholders in the Science and Technology Parks to discuss The Place of STPs in Africa’s Economic Recovery-Impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
Also in attendance were Dr Erick Mwangi, Director Research Science and Technology Ministry of Education Kenya; Dr Rethabile Melamu, General Manager, Green Economy Unit – The Innovation Hub, South Africa; and Patrick Tippoo, Executive Director of the African Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative (AVMI), South Africa.
Others are Dr James Kimotho, Head of KEMRI Innovation & Technology Transfer Division (ITTD); and Mr Ondari D. Mogeni, Associate Research Scientist, Epidemiology, Public Health, Implementation & Clinical Development Unit in International Vaccine Institute (IVI). KoTDA is a full member of IASP.