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In My View

October 16, 2014

The Innovation Prize for Africa heads to Morocco in 2015

There has been a lot of excitement surrounding the recent announcement of Morocco hosting the 2015 edition of the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA), and rightfully so. In my recent trips to Rabat, Morocco, I was invited to meet with the country’s innovation leaders and influencers.

My good friend and fellow IPA 2014 jury member, Omar Balafrej, had gone to great lengths to ensure that I witness firsthand the incredible developments that are taking place in his homeland.

Omar Balafrej, CEO, Casablanca Technopark proudly shows me the state of innovation in Morocco

Omar Balafrej, CEO, Casablanca Technopark proudly shows me the state of innovation in Morocco

I had the privilege of meeting H.E. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy. I was immediately struck by his vision and foresight as he enthusiastically shared his ambitious plans to drive economic growth in the Kingdom through innovation.

Here I am with H.E. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy

Here I am with H.E. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy

I also visited Technopark, in both Rabat and Casablanca. It is something I have been wanting to do since I met Omar… who is the CEO… in Abuja, Nigeria for the IPA 2014 awards in May this year. Technopark is a highly impressive establishment focusing on the creation and development of businesses in the ICT and Green Technologies sectors. As an innovation enthusiast, I was fascinated to observe the many startups thriving there.

L-R: Omar Balafrej, myself and Karim SY

L-R: Omar Balafrej, myself and Karim SY

L_R Karim SY, myself and Omar Balafrej are self-confessed innovation enthusiasts

L_R Karim SY, myself and Omar Balafrej are self-confessed innovation enthusiasts

I was even more elated when I learned that another fellow IPA 2014 juror, Karim SY, was also in the city to seal a business proposition that he struck up with Omar in Abuja during the IPA 2014 event. Karim is the founder of Jokkolabs, which is an open innovation ecosystem and a virtual cluster where entrepreneurs, creative minds and innovators can develop their business quickly through sharing expertise and know-how. The duo signed a partnership for Jokkolabs to extend its operations to Technopark in Morocco.

Equally impressive was the Moroccan Foundation for Advanced Science, Innovation and Research (MASCIR). From materials and nanotechnology to microelectronics and biotechnology, it is at the forefront of developing market-driven science and technology in Morocco and the wider region.

The team at MASCIR explains their approach to market-driven science and technology

The team at MASCIR explains their approach to market-driven science and technology

Morocco has well and truly made innovation-led development an integral part of the nation’s strategy for inclusive growth and prosperity. It is also no wonder that the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was held in Marrakech.

The Kingdom has demonstrated strong leadership in fostering an innovation ecosystem, and is ready to welcome African innovators from all over the Continent in order to build an innovation culture. This is the true essence of the IPA.

So having gone from East Africa, South Africa and West Africa, the IPA now heads to North Africa!

To me, it is a testament of the IPA’s Pan-African reach, and an achievement that all of us at theAfrican Innovation Foundation (AIF) can be proud of. The AIF today has the largest database of African innovators, it helps build long-lasting connections that lead to exciting business collaborations such as the one that transpired between Omar and Karim.

I look forward to celebrating African innovation in the Kingdom of Morocco next year…and to see what new bright ideas, collaborations and friendships develop as a result!