How do we engage young innovators and entrepreneurs in policy making and dialogues affecting the digital agenda in Rwanda, East Africa and the entire continent? And what are the most important steps to make sure that creative and digital innovation will continue to thrive and grow in the years to come?
This and much more was on the agenda when young innovators and entrepreneurs from all corners of Africa joined the honorable Minister of Youth and ICT and the leaders of the Smart Africa Agenda for a public dialogue on digital transformation and smart communities as part of the build-up to the Transform Africa Summit 2017.
The event was hosted by Ministry of Youth an ICT in collaboration with The Office and Global Innovation Gathering (GIG) at Lemigo Hotel on October 18th.
“You people in this room and the people and communities you represent are the ones delivering on the dream of transforming Africa. We want to transform governments across the continent to be more transparent, responsive and accountable – and we need your inputs on how to do so through technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. That is what the Smart Africa Agenda is all about”, said honorable minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana as he addressed the room of young innovators from Rwanda and all four corners of the African continent.
Hosted by The Office Rwanda, a hub of innovation in Kigali, a delegation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs from across Africa and Europe had come to Kigali to initiate a dialogue with the Government of Rwandan and the Smart Africa Secretariat about entrepreneurship and innovation policies.
Innovators from Ethiopia, Senegal, Togo, Morocco, Zimbabwe and South Sudan – to name but a few – presented their projects and gave inputs in the debate on how to involve the voices of young innovators in digital transformation making across the continent.
Asmaa Guedira from Morocco-based OuiShare who works to enable collaboration and sustainability across communities worldwide, emphasized the role of culture in all community-based projects: “Technology is a tool but not a solution to build smarter cities and communities. We need to take advantage of our own cultural assets. Sharing and collaboration is a big part of our African culture – so how do we utilize it to create smarter communities?”
Collaboration, culture and creativity was what brought everyone together for the dialogue, highlighting the importance of innovation to create African cities and communities where people can move more freely and be part of an innovative society that embraces growth and innovation. And for that very reason, Rwanda was a perfect host to this type of dialogue, said one of the main organizers, Geraldine de Bastion from the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG) who has been collaborating with Ministry of Youth and ICT for years to see this type of collaboration come to life.
“We see innovation hubs and our work as creating spaces for change and dialogue.
For us, SMART in SMART Africa does not only refer to technology and infrastructure. To us SMART Cities is also about the people living in these environments, it is about education, inclusion and agency. In this context this is not about us asking what your governments can do for you – but what can we as grassroots actors contribute to innovative governance,” said Geraldine de Bastion.