Innovation communities of more than 450,000 co-create and endorse Africa’s innovation policy manifesto

May 9th, 2018, Kigali, Rwanda.

What: The Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto (i4policy.org/manifesto) was co-created and endorsed during the i4policy African Innovation Hub Convention (#AIHC18) organized on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit (#TAS2018).

Some highlighted policy recommendations:

  • Easing mobility for Africans to travel in Africa
  • Adopting the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms
  • Simplifying the regulatory environment: starting and closing a business and paying taxes must be easier and cheaper and fines should be reduced
  • Redesigning education curricula together with a broad coalition of partners, such as labs and civic spaces, to emphasize critical thinking and digital skills, among others
  • Increased investment in R&D to accelerate indigenous innovation

Who: 90 hubs from 32 African countries with communities of more than 450,000 innovators have endorsed the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto (in its first 24 hours; see below, “what is a hub?”). In addition, the major hub networks on the continent have signed: Afrilabs, the Global Innovation Gathering, Impact Hub Africa, Jokkolabs Global, MEST, rLabs and Womanity. Furthermore, numerous affiliates and supporters have endorsed the document.

How: A smaller group of innovation leaders convened at Impact Hub Kigali on the sidelines of Transform Africa Summit to co-create the manifesto. 48 ecosystem leaders from 25 African countries, with 56% identifying as female and representing the major linguistic groups on the continent (Wolof, Swahili, English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Malagasy, among others) met during the i4policy African Innovation Hub Convention.

These 48 participants co-wrote and unanimously endorsed (with zero abstentions) the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto (i4policy.org/manifesto) over a two-day meeting, then circulated it to their peers. Importantly, the process of developing and endorsing the manifesto was a bottom-up process mirroring the governance and hosting work of the community innovation hubs themselves.

The topics were developed by community-appointed representatives. The innovation community provided real-time peer translation, mentorship and leadership. Partner organizations and supporters had “observer” status at the event, and did not participate directly in the deliberations.

When: During the #i4policy African Innovation Hub Convention on May 6-7 held at Impact Hub Kigali on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit.

Narrative Press Release

Leaders and managers of 45 African innovation hubs and communities from 25 African countries convened at the Impact Hub in Kigali, Rwanda, to co-design better innovation and entrepreneurship policies. The African Innovation Hub Convention culminated in a joint policy manifesto that was unanimously endorsed by the hub managers present, and is targeted at Africa’s policy makers at the national and regional levels. Twenty four hours after being endorsed in Kigali, a total of 90 community innovation hubs from 32 countries who support the manifesto and represent over 450,000 people in their communities.   

The event was organized on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali (8-9 May). Under the theme “Accelerating Africa’s Single Digital Market”, this year’s Summit brings together the largest community of stakeholders within the ICT space in the continent to discuss the role and power of digital technologies, including blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented reality, among others.    

The African Innovation Hub Convention on May 6-7 was attended by a very diverse group of hub managers, with fifty six percent of the participants identifying as female and the major linguistic groups on the continent represented, including Wolof, Swahili, English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Malagasy, among many others. Over the course of two days, participants broke into focused working sessions to discuss key public policy areas and to co-write the i4policy communiqué in view of accelerating digital transformation and contributing to more equitable, inclusive and sustainable development of economies and societies. Participants took ownership of the sessions by leading and facilitating the discussions as well as volunteering to translate for their French-speaking peers. 

The first version of the i4policy vision was first drafted in October 2016 when a smaller group of African innovation hubs, bloggers, entrepreneurs and community catalysts, met in Kigali to discuss their public policy challenges. The current manifesto was achieved through collaborative discussions, with input from the innovation hub managers physically at the event, as well as communities participating virtually from across the continent.

The policy manifesto focuses on seven key areas: education, research and development; digital infrastructure; public multidisciplinary spaces; business registration; finance for innovation and entrepreneurship; local and regional markets; and taxation systems.

The African Innovation Hub Convention was also an opportunity for the leaders of existing hub networks and associations active around the continent to share their work and progress with the gathering, with a view to strengthening existing networks and ties between innovation communities on content as well as policy visions. Participants learned about AfriLabs from Anna Ekeledo, they heard from Global Innovation Gathering’s Vicy Wenzelmann, Impact Hub Africa’s Emily Sheldon, Alex Ntale from the Rwandan ICT Chamber, Karimy Sy of JokkoLabs, and René Parker of rLabs, and more.

Rym Jarou, the Talent and Capacity Building Manager at Smart Tunisia spoke about how the recently passed Tunisian Startup Act came to be and shared learnings from that process that can serve as a useful example for startup ecosystems and their respective policy makers across the continent. Jarou recommended her policymaking peers to believe in young people, because they can give you solutions. She further emphasizing the importance of involving all stakeholders, which “guarantees two things: implementation and buy-in”. Her counterpart from the innovation ecosystem, Walid Hached of Cogite, an important coworking space in Tunis, stood by Jarou’s side and shared the ecosystem’s perspective, emphasizing the “amazing bottom-up approach” to developing the policy.

“It is time for innovation for policy in Africa”, says Markos Lemma from Ice Addis, Ethiopia. “We are not asking our governments to listen to us anymore. Instead, we will work with them to co-create policies that work for the innovation community. It is not a demand-supply relationship we want to have with policy makers. We want to have a relationship of cooperation and collaboration.”

Other highlights from the African Hub Convention were TED-style talks by CEO of IOHK and co-founder of Cardano and Ethereum blockchains, Charles Hoskinson, and the special advisor for Smart Africa Secretariat, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, as well as live performances from Rwandan artists.

The hub gathering was co-organised by i4policy, Jamaafunding, Kumasi Hive, the African Agribusiness Incubator Network and Impact Hub Kigali with support from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Input Output, R0g, and the Smart Africa Secretariat, organisers of Transform Africa. The African Union Commission attended as observers.

In many African countries, there are significant barriers to growth for small and medium enterprises, and it gets even more difficult for innovative startups that leverage technologies outside the scope of current legislation, according to Dana Elhassan, at the African Development Bank. “Our mandate at the African Development Bank is to foster inclusive growth for the economies of our member states. But a theoretical, top down approach is no longer sufficient for the purposes of guiding the governments who look to us for advice. Interacting with innovators and entrepreneurs in the context of this bottom-up policy deliberation gives us an opportunity to use our convening power to recommend policy interventions that best serve the interests for which they are intended”, she said.

The i4policy Alliance has begun formalizing a legal structure, bottom-up governance structure and values.  A second hub gathering will be organized later this year to validate the legal structure and importantly to provide a practical bottom-up training for hub managers on policy support methodologies developed by the community.  For example, Kumasi Hive together with 29 other hubs in Ghana formed the Tech and Business Hubs Network (TBHN) to work with the Government to improve the regulatory environment for innovation. 

Last year, Impact Hub Kigali also developed a policy hackathon methodology for supporting the development of Rwanda’s next seven-year Private Sector Development and Youth Employment Strategy. Civic Innovation Lab and Impact Hub Lagos together with i4policy recently contextualized the policy hackathon methodology and conducted events in Abuja and Lagos to work together with the Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This and other methodologies will be developed into toolkits to support policy engagement at the national level to practically implement this manifesto.

More information Videos of #AIHC18

What is a Hub? i4policy defines a community innovation hub as, “Bottom-up, open and inclusive spaces that attract diverse communities and heterogenous knowledge, facilitate collaboration, agglomerate opportunities and catalyze social and technological innovation.”

Essentially, hubs are very diverse array of community conveners that support innovation and entrepreneurship through training, facilitation, and collaboration: incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces, and training centres.

“Why a Hub Convention? The idea to host an innovation hub gathering was born during a Startup event organized by the African Union Commission Department for Trade and Industry in Cairo in December. Recognizing the important convening role that innovation hubs play, participants suggested the formation of an innovation hub association. The represented hub managers, Jorge Appiah from Kumasi Hive and Jon Stever from Impact Hub Kigali, encouraged a larger gathering of hubs to validate this ambition. The participants selected civil society and private sector leaders at the meeting to form an Expert Working Group on Innovation Hubs, led by i4policy, to organize the hub gathering. The AUC attended AIHC18 as observers, and the hub managers intend to continue supporting the AUC to establish mechanisms for policy advice.

The Tunisia #StartupAct presentation at the #AIHC18: https://www.facebook.com/i4Policy/videos/911595899020812/

Presentation of active networks and associations of innovation hubs:

https://www.facebook.com/i4Policy/videos/911079549072447/

Organizations and Partners

i4policy is an Alliance of innovation hubs and community catalysts who support governments to improve innovation, entrepreneurship and youth employment policies. See http://i4policy.org

Smart Africa Secretariat

SMART Africa is a bold and innovative commitment to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent and usher Africa into the knowledge economy through affordable access to Broadband and usage of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). The Smart Africa Secretariat provided complimentary passes to over 300 hub managers across Africa to attend Transform Africa Summit and to encourage their participation at the first Africa Innovation Hub Convention.

Transform Africa Summit is an annual event organized by the Smart Africa Secretariat, this year with the theme of “Accelerating Africa’s Single Digital Market” to push for rapid adoption of the AfCFTA concerning data infrastructure and digital transformation. See http://transformafricasummit.org/.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is the German development agency that provides services in the field of international development cooperation. GIZ supported the participation of hub managers across the continent.

Digital Solutions for Sustainable Development (DSSD)

Make-IT in Africa is a pilot project that aims to build business ecosystems that support tech start-ups’ evolution into ‘growable’, investable companies in sub-Saharan Africa. Make-IT has already supported the i4policy work also at the national level in Nigeria.

Innovation, employment and regional economic development (IDEE) aims to improve the economic performance of enterprises in Tunisia for more jobs and higher income.

International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF) is one of the largest linguistic zones in the world. Its members share more than just a common language. They also share the humanist ideals promoted by the French language. OIF supported the documentation of the event (film and photography) as well as staff time to organize and produce the event, including the translation of the key documents into French.

African Development Bank (AfDB) is Africa’s premier multilateral development bank, engaged in promoting the economic development and social progress of its regional member countries. AfDB supported inclusion and supported the participation of female community leaders across the continent to reach gender parity.

African Union Commission (AUC) is the secretariat of the African Union, entrusted with executive functions.  The AUC Department on Trade and Industry catalysed the initiative to form a new hub association focused on policy innovation, and participated in #AIHC18 as observers.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) works to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities through the sustainable development of nations, in more than 170 countries and territories.UNDP’s Regional Service Centre for Africa supported the attendance of several hub managers. 

Input Output (IOHK) is a technology company committed to using peer-to-peer innovations to provide financial services to the three billion people who don’t have them.  See https://iohk.io/about/.  IOHK supported the public event, Be The Change, it’s co-founder and CEO spoke at the event, and they generously increased their support to provide the catering, space and printing of materials for the Hub Convention.

R0g, agency for open culture and critical transformation in Berlin, puts into practice the mechanisms of sustainable open culture methodologies. R0g supported the attendance of innovation leaders from South Sudan.

Impact Hub Kigali (IHK) is a community owned innovation hub in Kigali, Rwanda that was founded in 2015. It emerged out of The Office, the first for-profit innovation hub in East Africa, which has evolved into a hub of hubs. Impact Hub Kigali believes that innovation comes from the intersection of new ideas and perspectives and skills and it’s key action is the acceleration of social interaction and serendipity. IHK runs programs across the continent on hardware and software innovation for social change, trains university students on business skills, has a coworking space and organizes and hosts a huge diversity of cultural and civic events from film festivals to street music festivals to policy roundtables. IHK hosted the Africa Innovation Hub Convention on its roof, provided organizational support, and its Managing Director led the AUC Expert Working Group on Innovation Hubs.

Kumasi Hive is an innovation hub offering access to tools, technology and business support for innovators and entrepreneurs in Ghana. Through its co-working, training and events and makers spaces, it supports local innovations and promotes youth entrepreneurship as a way of addressing critical social economic and developmental challenges. Kumasi Hive’s CEO was appointed to the AUC Expert Working Group on Innovation Hubs.

African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN) invests in nurturing member incubators to answer to the needs of incubatees in an ever-changing agribusiness environment to create more jobs and wealth using tested models of agribusiness incubation. An Investment Advisor from AAIN was appointed to the AUC Expert Working Group on Innovation Hubs during the December meeting in Cairo.

JamaaFunding is a crowdtiming platform dedicated to projects focused on solidarity, innovation and economic development across the world and mainly in Africa. JamaaFunding facilitated fundraising for the event. Also, JamaFunding’s CEO was appointed to the AUC Expert Working Group on Innovation Hubs.

See https://www.jamaafunding.com

Media contact information

For more information, media inquiries and interview opportunities, please contact bankole@lordbanks.com, jon.stever@impacthub.net and mafer@impacthub.rw

Pictures

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1OOmnX3jatk_vtsVAaYss55psshoplKSP?usp=sharing

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