Policymakers from across Africa started a two-day meeting in Nairobi on Thursday to discuss the pivotal role that innovation will play in securing the continent's economic transformation.
The meeting, organised by Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office, also brought together members of academia, the private sector and grantees from around the continent to deliberate on the role of innovation in catalyzing change and driving growth in Africa.Senior Economic Advisor of the newly formed Africa Economic Policy Development Initiative Obiageli Ezekwesili said Africa is a continent rich in resources and ideas, yet the poor have waited too long to see how this changes their daily life. "We as Africans therefore need to develop solutions that address our particular challenges in order to spur faster and more sustainable economic growth," said Ezekwesili who is also a former World Bank vice-president for Africa Region. She said the continent should critically involve people both in generating and in benefiting from quality growth in order to deliver real impact for the people of the continent, reiterating the importance of indigenous solutions.
The Rockefeller Foundation continues to support innovative solutions to complex development challenges across Africa through its diverse network of grantees. The Foundation's initiatives on the continent are focused on building resilience to shocks which impact the lives of poor and vulnerable people, as well as expanding opportunity through more equitable growth. Through its convening power, the Foundation is committed to encouraging the creation of partnerships and networks that promote innovation and a systems-based approach to address persistent development challenges. "The Foundation continues to support a legacy of innovation on the continent; fresh and bold thinking in finding solutions to complex developmental challenges is becoming the norm rather than the exception," said Eme Essien Lore, Interim managing director for the Foundation's Africa Regional Office.
Lore said visionary approaches in building resilience to climate change, transforming health systems throughout the region, and attracting responsible private investment to enable meaningful and equitable economic growth are key to drive and sustain the transformation of the continent."The Rockefeller Foundation has been active in Africa for nearly 100 years and our commitment to the continent today is stronger and more ambitious than ever. We see innovation as the driving force shaping Africa's future and one of the key exports Africa can share with the world," said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation."It is my hope that over the next two days, we will all play a significant role in contributing to this critical process by sharing learning, reflecting on emergent issues and leading change across and for the continent," said Rodin.
Experts said focusing on climate impact investments such as the development of drought-resistant seeds, prevention of floods and the development of anti-malarial drugs and mosquito nets could contribute to the economic development of the African continent. "Because most investors are big organizations, the industry is searching for opportunities amongst already established social enterprises. Due to the fact that Africa lacks social services, impact investment could develop to be become a very large industry with big economic footprint," they said.
Panel discussions scheduled during the meeting are designed to stimulate debate around the theme "Catalyzing Change and Driving Growth through African Innovation" with perspectives from diverse fields of expertise offered, as well as a review of broad trends across the continent which offers potential to drive massive growth in the coming decades and which can best be harnessed through indigenous innovation.The Foundation is working with the World Bank and other development agencies to avail resources to reach as many farmers as possible.