One factor that has greatly contributed to this push towards innovation especially in technology has been the growth of mobile, social media and internet connectivity, that has now become more available at much cheaper rates than a few years ago. Young Africans are getting connected, they are engaging and collaborating online, they are learning, and they are applying what they are learning to better their own lives. The dependance is less and less on the more traditional mode of thinking i.e. go to school, get a job. Young Africans are more and more turning to entrepreneurial activity, and the web and mobile are giving them the capacity to do this at a relatively low cost and with great efficiency.
Technology of course presents the unique advantage of having relatively low barriers to entry and potentially massive outcomes. In an interview with Teddy Ruge, he described technology as a game changer and platform leveler for Africa relative to the rest of the world.
A model that has worked particularly well as far as innovation is concerned is that of creating centers of innovation, spaces where people come together, share ideas and work on them in an enabling environment where the right tools and opportunities are presented. The Nairobi Innovation Hub was probably the first to do this successfully, and now the model has been replicated all over Africa – Bantalabs in Senegal, ActivSpaces in Cameroon or iLab in Liberia (and many more).
Governments in several African nations have also caught on and have sought to invest more in ICT and create suitable policy environments for tech innovation. But if we expand the scope of this discussion from just ICT and ICT-specific investment, much is still to be done.