Africa’s New Frontier – Creating Prosperity Through Innovation

2010 February 4
tags: ,
by Ismail Dhorat

I previously wrote about Africa’s New Frontier conference here in Ottawa. I will be live blogging the event, you can refresh the page to get the latest updates. I will cover each session with a different post.

11:00 – Creating Prosperity Through Innovation

Speaker: Minister Venancio Massingue, Minister of Science & Technology (Mozambique)

The minister is thanking the previous speaker, organizers and giving an introduction to his talk.  His points:

The time for Africa has arrived, if we believe we can do it we can. We should not underestimate ourselves. No co-operation between politicians and scientists were one of the reasons behind the brain drain in Africa.

Strategic areas that are being focused on:

  • Human Resource
  • Education
  • Agriculture
  • Health
  • Energy
  • Marine Sciences
  • Information Communication Technology
  • Biotechnology
  • etc.

Implementation of the strategy is done via programs and projects, every project is linked to a program.

Some programs include:

  • Millennium Village project
  • Scientific Expeditions – Scientists are sent to rural communities to study and determine solutions for their problams. This sounds a bit like Living Labs?
  • Biotech program
  • National research program on HIV

It’s very important that the programs are used by local people, he told a funny story that had people chuckling.

The minister is speaking about their innovation program:

  • They identify innovators
  • Provide support for producing a prototype
  • Provide support for patents and registation

Some examples:

  • Mecho-mechanical maize mill
  • Bicycle ambulance
  • etc.

They have also launched an incubator programs, he is showing the buildings where they started. The initial facilities were dilapidated and old. Mozambique has a partnership with Japan where scientists from Japan come to Mozambique to work with local scientists. Programs are created for co-operatation (i.e Japan, India). They have also approved Tax incentives for the science park and have declared it as a special zone. The Maluana Science & Technology Park is being planned. There are plans to build four science and technology parks around Mozambique.

The minister is wrapping up, Final slide is on “What we expect from you”, he has a good sense of humour. Requesting assistance on the implementation of the CSIR of Mozambique.  I am guessing it’s very similar to the CSIR in South Africa?  Huge round of applause.

Scientific research is important but it should be relevant to people

Time for questions.

Question: The Framework for innovation, to an outsider it seems like there is a whole lot of work done in Mozambique that could be useful in other parts of the world and in Africa? Is there a sharing mechanism for patents? Especially amongst the SADC region.

Question: Is there collaboration with other African countries, so African countries can learn from each other?

(Interestingly, none of the colabs mentioned were with an African country)

Question: How to ensure there is a bridge between politicians and Academia/scientists? Is there a mechanism  to review the programs, are we going to end up with machines that are not being used in the field in 5 years.?

Answers:

Very Briefly

There are mechanism’s in place to review and feedback, also people are being hired to focus on collaboration. Even amongst African countries.

Lunch Time Speaker: Punam Chuhan-Pole, Lead Economist, Office of the Chief Economist, Africa Region, World Bank

In the past decade, Africa has seen phenomenal growth in Economic activities. One of the key drivers is Africans themselves is driving this change, combining local knowledge with global knowledge. There is optimism that these changes can be long lasting, however there are causes for concern as well.

Punam is providing examples of economic growth:

  • Average annual GDP grew from 2.5% in 1990′s to 6% in 2003-2007
  • Growth was not only with mineral rich countries, but all of them
  • There is a declining poverty rate in Africa
  • Over 60% of children are completing primary schools
  • The next challenge will be getting more people into secondary/tertiary education
  • Progress on controlling HIV
  • Private investment is increasing, currently 15% of GDP. Still lower then Asia
  • There is rising foreign direct investment, to record levels in 2008
  • Exponential growth in ICT, especially mobile services, some countries in Africa are approaching 100% mobile penetration
  • Improving trends in competitiveness
  • Concern: There is a skills gap that affects Africa’s competitiveness
  • Increase in agricultural productivity, but due to expansion of agricultural lands but not due to actual productivity increase
  • Slowdown globally had consequences in the continent
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