Supporting innovators is critical to success of ‘digital economy’  

Posted on January 14, 2015 11:18 am

Contador Harrison believes start-up tech firms put theory into practice.And it is good sign that several African countries governments are talking about a “digital economy.”However, that vision has to be complemented with investment in research, development and innovation.On a broader perspective, African countries needs an ecosystem that supports technology start-ups that are looking to innovate. The drive for a digital economy should not be just about sitting in meeting boardrooms to make plans, or figuring about how to get the government or local council to use technology, or hosting trainings where memoranda of understanding between organizations are being signed. Instead, African countries need to make sure that technological innovations from the continent are adopted around the continent and hopefully across the world. Africa as a whole needed to encourage growth-oriented and innovative start-ups as well as investors that can nurture them.

There is decent momentum in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana and Egypt with regards to start-ups. Also, there are many events that encourage people to get together and present their ideas. However, very few get funding. It is known that start-ups are at a very early stage of development, and need as much support as possible, including money, in order to survive and progress. Also, the continent needs a programme that is responsible for helping Africa-based technology enterprises grow. The same programme also has to work on building trust in African technology products and services. Such programme should also work with partners to help enterprises in financing, capability and management development, technology and innovation, and access to markets. Me also thinks that the relevant government agencies should work with industry players to identify and select experienced partners, whether they are venture-capital firms or even incubators, in order to provide matching grants to their investments that have the potential for mass adoption.

This way, experienced and accredited investors will be encouraged to invest in African companies. At the same time, innovative people will be encouraged to propose productivity solutions, as there will be better access to funds.If the start-up is able to obtain a commitment from investors, African countries government could potentially match the intended amount up to a certain maximum. Your blogger has noted that other African economies such as South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania had implemented many such programmes successfully, and had witnessed huge growth in their technology industries. As Africa moves closer to middle income status region, innovation should be given the focus it deserves, with the right policies and programmes to steer its growth. I believe everyone is equal, whether they are a man or woman, whether they are young or old, whether they are rich or poor. It is time that African countries give a fair chance to others to be the next set of innovators, so that they can continue to take the continent forward.

Contador Harrison