April 19, 2024

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AfriLabs Community convenes in Kigali to discuss Africa’s Digital Economy and the continent’s resilience to climate change

By Emmanuel Mutangana

The event brought together entrepreneurs, innovators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to explore the role of technology in finding sustainable solutions.

The AfriLabs, a Pan-African organization focused on innovation, partnered with various stakeholders in the African technology and innovation ecosystem to organize The AfriLabs Annual Gathering 2023. The event, which had the theme “Accelerating Africa’s Digital Economy; by the Strength of our Community” was held in Kigali, Rwanda from Wednesday the 11th to Friday the 13th of October 2023 at the Kigali Convention Centre.

Co-hosted by AfriLabs Member Hub, the focus of the gathering is to boost the growth of Africa’s digital economy through the power of the AfriLabs community. The community includes innovation hubs, policymakers, development organizations, corporations, academia, and other stakeholders from Africa’s technology and innovation ecosystem.

Throughout the three days, participants will look at various topics such as Investor, Climate Change and Adaptation, Creative and Technology Intersection, Policy and Data driven Africa, Gender Inclusion, and Hub Solutions and Sustainability.

They will also explore funding gaps, sustainable climate action, cross sector collaborations, policy related challenges, gender diversity, and tech hub support for startups.

According to Anna Ekeledo, Executive Director of AfriLabs, “The coming together of these diverse stakeholders for the AfriLabs Annual Gathering in Kigali aimed to accelerate Africa’s digital economy as a reflection of what we need to do as a continent to improve our situation.”

She said that she is excited about the quality of content at this year’s event and the beginning of more impactful interventions for the innovation ecosystem.

“We started around 12 years ago, in 2011 with five innovation hub members across the continent and basically what we set up around that time, was to build community around innovation hubs, who all have physical spaces who supported to know the continent to build the ideas into social businesses and rights, now since then, we brought over 400 member hubs in 53 countries and other stakeholders with the focus of raising successful startups and entrepreneurs that are developing and deploying innovative solutions to African problems through the adoption of technologies” She explained.

“In terms of impact, we have also expanded our support for the community by funding and fostering innovation startups. Investors, development partners, and policy makers collaborate with us to assist the innovators,” she said.

Ms. Anna Ekeledo concluded by stating what the African community can do to expedite Africa’s digital progress.

She emphasized that the only way to achieve this is by individuals working collaboratively, governments committing to the cause, private sectors and civil societies joining hands, and the innovation community coming together.

“This collective effort will generate interest and enable us to bring about the desired change. As individuals who have witnessed the potential of the digital community in improving lives, it is imperative for us to unite and make it happen as a community.” She said.

Speaking on Climate Change, Eric Tambo, Associate Academic Officer at UNU-EHS, Germany, said that “Human activities have been the cause of climate change.”

He demonstrated that Africa is uniquely vulnerable to climate change, particularly the poorest countries such as Chad and Madagascar.

He said that adaptation measures include focusing on agriculture, water management, energy, and forestry while mitigation strategies involve reducing the impact of climate change, while adaptation involves adjusting to its effects.

Mr Bankole Oloruntoba, CEO Nigeria Climate Innovation Center, (NCIC, Nigeria), speaking on accelerating Afica’s Green Innovation Ecosystem highlighted Africa as the most regional markets in the world.

“There’s already a thriving green ecosystem in Africa, what we have to do is to put our hands together to make it work through mitigation and adapt African Green Economy and Three trillion market, we are one of the most sought after regional markets in the world”. He said.

“Many sectors within Africa have not achieved 100% energy. Circular economy is also a significant market. If Lagos state alone recycles 50% of its plastic, we can generate revenues of $250 million. Think about the potential of the other 36 states in Nigeria.,” he said.

“Building knowledge and partnerships is crucial for research and demonstration. How can we understand this market if we don’t collaborate? Consider the individuals in your vicinity. It is necessary to incorporate an African context and a global perspective in order to transition away from fossil fuels,” he added.

“Let’s have an African CIC network, we need to consolidate, let us scale the green economy through our community. For us to activate this $ 3 trillion market, we need to show the viability”.

“We are innovating but we are not documenting it, we need to start looking at how we document our progress”. Mr Bankole added.

According to Martin Karanja, Director GCMA Innovation Fund, Kenya, “Tech is going to be a basic need cutting across every perspective. Tech is a basic enabler, it needs to be leveraged as a cure enabler and a medium for reaching million. Tech will continue to contribute significantly to climate resilience”. He said.

Similar to Sieka Gatabaki, Program Director, Mercy Corps, Kenya, “Tech has the power to make systems work better. Just like it has made finance better, it has the potential to do the same with climate change”.

“Everyone is Fintech. We need to build other types of infrastructure. Digital doesn’t mean it must be all, let’s keep building things that create solutions. We are innovation managers and we need to help innovators find solutions through collaboration”, he said.

According to Sonia Umulinga, CEO, Plasticraft Ltd, Rwanda, “people should be aware and be part of the solutions for climate change. Rwanda is doing well in the tech place. There is a gap between ideas and execution, financing should be encouraged to push our entrepreneurs”.

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