January 27, 2023

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Commonwealth Secretary General pledges support for Kenya’s innovation ambitions

Commonwealth Secretary-General

The Commonwealth Secretary-General the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC has pledged Commonwealth support to help Kenya realise its ambitious innovation goals.

The Secretary-General delivered the opening address at the second Kenyan Innovation Week conference in Nairobi. The conference showcases the work being done to transform the innovation landscape in Kenya.

Speaking at the event the Secretary-General praised Kenyan innovation saying: “I am delighted to see Kenya’s National Innovation Agency going from strength to strength. Your work is critical to building the foundations of the trailblazing ‘innovation nation’ which we all know Kenya can be.

“History shows that countries with the capacity and vision to innovate smartly are best placed to achieve equitable, inclusive and sustainable progress and development.

“Innovation is a means through which we can achieve the end we seek for Kenya and the whole Commonwealth: more prosperous, more equitable and more resilient societies.”

She added: “There is an exciting, important, impactful journey ahead for all of you, for Kenya and for Africa – and I promise you that I, and the entire Commonwealth, will be by your side as your partner and friend as you drive progress towards a better, fairer, more secure, more resilient, and more prosperous future for all.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has sped-up the global move towards digitisation. While this presents opportunities for employment and trade, it also presents challenges exasperated by the digital divide in the Commonwealth and a lack of infrastructure.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is actively working to support member countries, including Kenya, deliver on their innovation ambitions to see the realisation of more inclusive, creative, and globally connected economies, able to react and respond to global challenges and opportunities.

The Secretary-General spoke at the conference following an invitation from H.E Hon President William Ruto PhD., C.G.H, who gave the keynote address.

The Secretary-General made a courtesy call to President Ruto a day prior to the conference where they discussed Kenya’s bold plans for innovation; areas where the Commonwealth can contribute expertise and support; and how data and knowledge-sharing will be the bedrock of the kind of innovation which is critical to progress across the Commonwealth-family.

During her conference speech, the Secretary-General emphasised the importance of increasing the skills of young people – a talented asset for innovation – to help them access an increasingly digital-focused job market and combat unemployment.

Today, more than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. By 2030, young Africans are expected to constitute 42% of global youth. However, nearly 40% of young people in Kenya are unemployed.

The Commonwealth Secretariat signed a partnership with e-scholarships provider Simplilearn at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda in June.

The agreement will provide 10,000 free e-learning course placements, worth $5million, to young people across the Commonwealth.

Courses cover digital skills like AI, coding, software development – skills needed to help address the digital skills gap – and will be launched in Africa next year.

The Secretary-General also highlighted the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work on the Connectivity Agenda which is helping member countries understand the potential for digital technologies to boost intra-Commonwealth trade and is highlighting the role intra-Commonwealth co-operation can play in building digital capacity, particularly in small states.

Innovation also cuts across the Commonwealth’s work on climate through the Commonwealth Blue CharterThe Living Lands Agenda, the Climate Finance Access Hub and the Sustainable Energy Transitions Agenda.

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