Thursday, February 28, 2013

Africa, it's time to innovate

 Africa's future prosperity lies in its embrace of technology and innovation.  It's the key to the continent's much-desired renaissance.  That was one message that came strong last year at the Africa Innovate Conference of the Africa Business Club of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School.
That message is set to resonate again with only few days to yet another Africa Innovate conference.  The conference, a unique pool of tech-savvy and entrepreneurial Africans will hold on March 15 and 16, 2013 at the MIT Media Lab.
For those who only see Africa through the lens of wars, hunger, poverty and hopelessness, it is an opportunity to encounter a different Africa, and come face to face with innovative minds and enterprising young Africans, the continent's Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages.  The passion they exhume is infectious and their vision for their homeland remarkable.
I attended last year's and was remarkably struck by the wit, innovative thinking, entrepreneurial energy on display.  It gives tremendous hope about the future of Africa.   This experience is a good healing for Afro-pessimism.
For those who only see Africa through the lens of wars, hunger, poverty and hopelessness, it is an opportunity to encounter a different Africa, and come face to face with innovative minds and enterprising young Africans, the continent's Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages
Africa is rising and the Africa Innovate conference is one place to discover this.  The speakers are remarkable young achievers and their stories are compelling, and the discussions quite incisive.
The students will this year host as guest, the World Bank Vice President for Africa, Senegal-born UK trained economist Mahtar Diop, as they discuss investment opportunities in Africa.

The Economist in its current edition captured a fact which is already obvious to many Afro-optimist like me.  In a special report titled 'A hopeful continent', the magazine noted that "African lives have already greatly improved over the past decade.  The next ten years will be even better."
"War, famine and dictators have become rarer. People still struggle to make ends meet, just as they do in China and India. They don’t always have enough to eat, they may lack education, they despair at daily injustices and some want to emigrate. But most Africans no longer fear a violent or premature end and can hope to see their children do well," the magazine writes.
overall young Africans are today much more determined than ever to take their destinies in their own hands
There are few exceptions, though, like my beloved Nigeria where despite remarkable economic growth figures, Boko Haram and corruption continue to dominate headlines, but overall young Africans are today much more determined than ever to take their destinies in their own hands, and nothing is helping them in this quest better than the increased availability of the cell phone and the internet.
Many are quick to forget that what has become known today as the Arab Spring, the greatest expression of people power in recent history happened in Africa - Tunisia, Egypt, Libya - all African countries.
More revolutions are on the way.  Indeed, this is the time to innovate and in no place is it more needed than in Africa.  Common folks, let's innovate.  
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