Africa: Innovation Africa Summit, Zim's Opportunity to Heighten ICT Investment Drive

Africa Innovation Summit attendees (file photo).
20 November 2018
interview

With the Innovation Africa summit drawing closer, 263Chat had an opportunity to talk to the organised of the event that is set to bring ministers from across Africa to deliberate on how to advance investment in education, digital transformation and entrepreneurship in the continent.

The summit which started in 2012 also brings together leading international Information and Communication technology (ICT) and education investors to meet and discuss business with education ministers from across Sub-Saharan Africa. With Zimbabwe hosting this important conference for the second time since its inception, hopes are high that the country will benefit immensely and move towards digitization in line with global trends.

Below are excepts from an interview we held with the organizers of the Innovation Africa conference set to be held from 28 to 30 November.

263CHAT: Who/What is Innovation Africa?

IA: Innovation Africa is an annual meetings-based forum organized by AfricanBrains and dedicated to advancing investment in education, digital transformation, innovation and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. It moves from country to country each year. The establishment of the summit did in fact start in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls in 2012 and since then the event has taken place in South Africa, Botswana, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique. For 2018 we are delighted that it is returning home to Zimbabwe and especially so in celebration of the country's new dawn.

263CHAT: Can you give a brief background or context that informed the need to hold this conference?

IA: The summit is essential because it brings together the leading international ICT and education industry investors in a format whereby they can schedule meetings with African ministries of education, higher education, ICT and science & technology. In the case of ICT for education and digital transformation in Africa there is an essential need for knowledge and technology transfer. That knowledge and technology is in the hands of industry and hence we must bring industry leaders such as Microsoft, Intel, Cambridge, IBM and many more to work with government.

263CHAT: Of what importance is the conference to what Zimbabwe is trying to achieve in terms of universal access to technology for learners?

IA: The Zimbabwe Ministry of Primary & Secondary Education has already implemented its competence based curriculum across the country. Now there is the need to ensure that all schools have connectivity and the ability to utilize the internet for education. Furthermore, Zimbabwe, needs to increase its educational capacity with between 1,800 and 2,000 more schools in the coming decade to meet the demands of the growing young population. To achieve universal access to technology for Zimbabwean learners requires the schools to be connected to WiFi services and to have the digital technology available in their classrooms - tablets, laptops and interactive display technologies. Again it is the industry investors and solutions providers who can work with the government to provide such equipment and thus fulfil the desire of the government to achieve universal access.

263CHAT: How are you going to ensure that the outcomes from this conference are cascaded to the key stakeholders in the education sector and the general public?

IA: The essential outcomes are formed during the pre-scheduled one-to-one meetings during the afternoons of 29th & 30th November. Over 1,000 meetings will take place over those two days. Not all meetings result in actions and deals but even if a small percentage of the right people connect then it produces genuine tangible results. We produce the post-event report and wee work all year round to keep government, civil society and industry connected - simultaneously it is the responsibility of those stakeholders to ensure that the outcomes are cascaded.

263CHAT: I understand that this is not the first conference to be held, how have you made implemented of past conference resolutions and successes?

IA: As per the above answer, there have been multiple Innovation Africa forums across 7 countries. In that time we have obtained feedback from governments and partners that over $470 million worth of investment and partnership agreements have been signed off. This, of course, does not happen on-site at the event but is a result of the meetings and engagements at the event with the subsequent follow up of parties.

263CHAT: Besides ministers and other government officials, who else will attend this important conference?

IA: Correct, there will be over 170 visiting African officials led by over 20 ministers and deputy ministers on top of the three lead ministers for primary & secondary education, higher education and ICT from Zimbabwe. The other main group is industry investors and technology solution providers in the ICT and education space. Over 250 private sector senior executives will be participating from international companies including Microsoft, Intel, Canon, Cambridge, Lightsail Education, JP-Inspiring Knowledge, Education Development Trust, Haier, Epson, Acer, Lenovo, Classera, Genius Plaza, IT Worx and many more than you can see on the main event website:

There will also be an excellent collection of Zimbabwean firms including eLearning Solutions, W2 industries, CPS, Solution Centre, Rank Zimbabwe, ZB Financial Holdings, Econet Wireless and Higherlife Foundation

263CHAT: What are the key highlights of this conference if you may share with the general public?

IA: Key highlights include African Leaders Day on the 28th November which will have a government breakfast and then some keynote presentations from the likes of Microsoft, Cambridge & Intel. This will be followed by an official opening welcome by the President of Zimbabwe His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The 29th November will see the Africa launch of UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report and the morning will be opened by the Minister of Primary & Secondary Education

The 30th November will be opened by the Minister of Higher Education, Science & Technology, Hon Prof Amon Murwira and later that morning there will be a student engagement session hosted by multiple university vice-chancellors

The two afternoons of 29th & 30th November are dedicated to one-to-one pre-scheduled meetings between government and industry investors.

And all the time there will be an exhibition of the leading industry partners

263CHAT: What some of the topics and presentations that will constitute this conference?

IA: Key topics include:

  • Educational Transformation to Deliver Sustainable Outcomes
  • Innovating to Bridge Africa's Skills Gap
  • Developing School Leadership & Investing in Quality Teaching
  • Innovation in Higher Education, Science & Technology
  • Classroom Technology & Digital Literacy for African Students
  • The question of whether UCTs can deliver on their promise
  • Rural Connectivity of Schools in Africa - A Cost Effective Solution
  • How Assessment can Contribute to Improving Learning Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa

263CHAT: In terms of technological development, where would you place Zimbabwe against other African countries attending this conference?

IA: There are 33 African countries (including Zimbabwe) participating in the summit with a wide variety of levels of technological development and connectivity. Some more advanced than others. I would hesitate attempting to put African countries in any scale order and I suspect there is not enough data for even major IGOs like the Word Bank and AU to be able to have a league table of technological development in Africa

What I would say is that Zimbabwe always has had an outstanding reputation for quality education - has always been one of Africa's leaders in the education space, especially when look at data such as literacy and mathematical skills. The country has already introduced its competence based curriculum and the Government has a vision delivering of connecting all schools to the internet and ensuring devices and technologies are implemented in the schools as part of its digital transformation strategy.

I believe the signs are good for Zimbabwe to be one of Africa's technological leaders

Post the conference, what are some of the benefits that Zimbabwe will derive from this high-level initiative.

This is Zimbabwe's new dawn. This is one of the first major international forums for ICT and education that have taken place here in the last 12 months. The industry investors who are coming will see a bountiful country that is at peace with itself. It is up to Zimbabweans in both government and industry to engage with that international community and reap the benefits.

We are organising the forum, we are bringing the top people to the table. Now Zimbabwe must leverage this opportunity and many more in the future.

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