On the chilly morning of 12 September 2018, the southern entrance of Cape Town Stadium was buzzing with excitement as throngs of expectant summit goers lined up to register at the visitors’ desks for the SA Innovation Summit. Stationed at the same desk was a team of Connected Hubs greeters, ready to receive participants of the Annual Southern Africa Innovation Forum (ASAIF), taking place at the summit. Aimed at being a regional platform to facilitate knowledge, networking and learning, this year’s ASAIF was held under the theme “Inclusive Innovations” and attracted thought leaders, industry experts, startups, and public and private sector representatives from across SAIS stakeholders.
World Prize For Integrated Development
The Summit programme opened on a high note with the awarding of the World Prize for Integrated Development to this year’s laureate Mrs Graca Machel for her commendable developmental work with women and children. Presenting the prize was NIRAS Head of International Consulting, Tor Lundstrom and receiving the award on behalf of her mother, was Josina Machel, a Graca Machel Trust board member. “We are grateful to NIRAS, an international multi-disciplinary consultancy that aims to be a catalyst for social change, for sponsoring the World Prize and supporting the innovation work of the Graca Machel Trust.” In handing over the prize Tor Lundstrom remarked that “We believe in building sustainable societies, which is our main slogan, and this is very much linked to the need for integrated approaches and working with holistic solutions, that is why we have sponsored this prize.”
The ASAIF followed the award ceremony and was a dynamic programme put together by SAIS and Connected Hubs using crowdsourcing to nominate speakers throughout five SADC countries of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia. Panellists, speakers and presenters provided diverse views on best practises in supporting innovation ecosystems for entrepreneurship in the SADC region. Some key insights focused on the role of start-ups’ and entrepreneurs in promoting more inclusive growth and the importance of including the wider society in innovation and development activities. Approximately 120 attendants comprising of startups, entrepreneurs, representatives of private and public sectors attended, with the Connected Hubs team on hand to facilitate logistics. Linda Shachinda, one of the panellists and a female tech entrepreneur based in Zambia said that “After our discussions on inclusive technologies, I am convinced beyond a doubt that it is something that needs to be put in place whenever we are creating any innovation. By focusing on inclusive innovation we make sure that nobody is left out regardless of gender or location."
Inclusive Innovations panel moderated by Rene Parker (RLabs, South Africa), with Linda Shachinda (Fortrighter Digital Marketing, Zambia),
Tim Wucher (Dololo Namibia) and Thabiso Mashaba (These Hands GSSE, Botswana).
Pauline Koelbl (Africa Innovation Foundation) with Daan Du Toit (South African Department of Science and Technology) in a fireside chat on
Ideal Innovation Ecosystems chaired by Ilari Lindy.
Anneline Morgan (SADC Secretariat) with Aino Piirtola (Slush GIA) and Ellen Olafsen (World Bank) in a panel discussion on Ecosystem Enablers.
Dylan Piatti (Deloitte) moderates the Fireside Chat on Start Up Culture with Godfrey Magila (Magilatech, Tanzania) and Alexandra Fraser (mLab, South Africa).
Start Ups Showcase
To close off the event was a showcase of the five startups selected to represent each of their countries at this year’s Slush conference in Helsinki. Zeal and Zest from Botswana was represented by Bobby Nthuthang, Solve Namibia by Demetrio Mowes, Cancer Dojo by Conn Bertish from South Africa, Somaapps by Isaya Yunge from Tanzania, and Agripredict by Mwila Kangwa from Zambia. Two expert commentators offered feedback on the 3-minute pitches.
The event brought together participants from SADC and beyond, with some presenters such as Aape Pohjavirta, the founder of Funzi, a Finnish based mobile learning service provider remarking that, “It has brought a lot of players from the ecosystem together, such as researchers, policymakers and also funders. There has been open discussion and this is a forum, where people share their thoughts, and address pressing and complex issues. SAIS has created an environment of trust, which is a driver of innovation and all of the elements necessary to build Africa, not only the five SAIS countries in SADC, but the whole of Africa.”
*ASAIF is an annual event organised by SAIS with the next one geared to take place in 2019