November 19, 2014
Building Innovation Ecosystems: Opportunities for Partnerships Between Africa and Germany
I was recently invited as the keynote speaker at the Berlin-Africa Economic Forum on Innovation. The forum was organized by the German-African Business Association, which consists of some 600 member companies and organizations with business interests in Africa.
It was an excellent platform to highlight the dynamic new opportunities arising out of Africa and to establish feasible and immediate ways in which Germany can collaborate with African leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators to unlock Africa’s potential.
Africa is where it is all happening right now. Africa’s economies are demonstrating growth and resilience. The cost of doing business in Africa, including the time it takes to start a business, has reduced significantly. And, creative industries are flourishing.
When you look at Africa today, there is steady growth in world trade – trade between Western Africa and Asia, for instance, is forecast to increase by 14% annually over the next decade.
Africa also has a fast growing middle class and a young workforce, with 50% of its population below the age of 19.
If we look at how African economies are diversifying, the opportunities are massive. From agriculture to tourism, real estate, manufacturing, engineering, financial services and ICT, there is money to spend and money to be made in Africa at present.
For most African leaders, one of the key concerns right now is job creation. According to the World Bank, the continent will need to create some 95-million new jobs by 2020, and another 160-million by 2030. Where will this come from?
Small and medium-sized enterprises, we all know, are the real engine of growth. In developed markets, they form the backbone of industry, driving innovation and employing millions.
In Switzerland, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Scoreboard 2012 indicates that the SME sector constitute 99.6% of Swiss enterprises and employ 66.6% of the labor force. In Africa however, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) states that the SME sector in Sub Saharan Africa accounts for over 90% of all enterprises. Yet the sector contribute less than 20% to gross GDP and barely impacts employment levels.
So there is real opportunity to support high level innovation in Africa within this space. I believe that investing in innovation will help revolutionize Africa’s key growth sectors such as agriculture, finance, healthcare, and ICT…and create the jobs needed.
The African Innovation Foundation (AIF) is ready to welcome German business partners to support innovation on the continent. We strongly welcome collaborative efforts to launch new, innovative initiatives in Africa.
A large contingent of African ambassadors and business leaders were present at the 2014 BAEF
L-R: H.E Jean-Claude Bouyobart, Ambassador of Gabon, Dr Stefan Liebing, Chairperson German-African Business Association, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, Founder, AIF
IPA 2014 Grandprize winner, Dr Nicolaas Duneas (far right), and Social Impact Winner, Dr Melesse Temesgen (centre) discuss their innovations at BAEF 2014