Today’s Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS) in Kenya will drive forward development of the African innovation ecosystem, and result in at least ten viable projects, according to Nokia’s VP for Corporate Relations and Responsibility in the Middle East and Africa, Jussi Hinkkanen.
“I’ve spent a massive amount of time in different conferences over the course of my career, but they didn’t result in anything concrete. We are hosting this summit to drive forward the development of the African eco-system, foster close partnerships between developers and Nokia, and accelerate African leadership capabilities to drive growth of the ICT industry in the region.”
More than 200 government executives, innovators, VC companies, academics and developers from 26 countries across the continent will engage in three days of intense debate on ‘Leadership for Innovation’ at the OIAS in Nairobi, which is hosted by Nokia, Cap Gemini and infoDev, a technology innovation program in the World Bank.
Speakers from the World Bank, the Boston Consulting Group and others will attend the event on May 28-30th, along with Dr Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the Kenyan Ministry for Information and Commerce, and Alan Knott-Craig, CEO of Africa’s largest social network MXit.
Delegates will then work in streams over the course of three days to develop a series of viable development projects to go forward. Participants themselves are the stars of the event and will take ownership of the developed initiatives at the end of the summit.
Hinkkanen believes the event in uniquely tailored to African needs: “Nokia is establishing a network of Mobile Application Labs and developer programs in Africa. We already have three in South Africa, Kenya and Egypt – and we plan to have several more.” The OAIS will address two key factors which he believes are now key to making African innovation more successful – developing a more “holistic” eco-system with scale that reaches more emerging entrepreneurs across the continent and enabling developers to monetize their products.
“An African eco-system requires broader approach then in developed markets and needs to include government, financial service providers, universities and other players – in addition to the traditional elements such as developers, operating system and store.”
Building locally relevant content is key, but so is helping African entrepreneurs to become successful commercially and to get their innovations to the local, regional and global markets.
“There is a very strong community element here, and the mindset is very flexible and innovative. We’re seeing some really interesting and unique apps that you don’t see anywhere else in the world – but a lot of those are given away for free due to monetization challenges, and what we need to develop are sustainable businesses that are able to grow and prosper.”
Hinkkanen says he is particularly excited about the focus on leadership at the summit and keynotes from TED alumnae Patrick Awuah, a former Microsoft Program Manager who’s set up Ashesi University College in Ghana, and Fred Swaniker, who founded the African Leadership Academy in South Africa after working as COO for Cape Town biotech company Synexa Life Sciences.
“They are real visionaries about the future generation of African leaders. This continent is bigger than China, India, Europe and the US put together. We’ve made a great start, but the next stage of the African mobile revolution is about scaling up. We need to build the critical mass of innovators across the continent to unleash the potential of their ideas and to start transforming societies”