Innovation communities of more than 450,000 co-create and endorse Africa’s innovation policy manifesto.
May 9th, 2018, Kigali, Rwanda.
Narrative Press Release
Leaders and managers of 45 African innovation hubs and communities from 25 African countries convened at the Impact Hub in Kigali, Rwanda, to co-design better innovation and entrepreneurship policies. The African Innovation Hub Convention culminated in a joint policy manifesto that was unanimously endorsed by the hub managers present, and is targeted at Africa’s policy makers at the national and regional levels. Twenty four hours after being endorsed in Kigali, a total of 90 community innovation hubs from 32 countries who support the manifesto and represent over 450,000 people in their communities.
The event was organized on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali (8-9
May). Under the theme “Accelerating Africa’s Single Digital Market”, this year’s Summit
brings together the largest community of stakeholders within the ICT space in the continent
to discuss the role and power of digital technologies, including blockchain, the Internet of
Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented reality, among others.
The African Innovation Hub Convention on May 6-7 was attended by a very diverse group of
hub managers, with fiftysix percent of the participants identifying as female and the major
linguistic groups on the continent represented, including Wolof, Swahili, English, French,
Arabic, Portuguese, Malagasy, among many others. Over the course of two days, participants broke into focused working sessions to discuss key public policy areas and to co-write the i4policy communiqué in view of accelerating digital transformation and contributing to more equitable, inclusive and sustainable development of economies and societies. Participants took ownership of the sessions by leading and facilitating the discussions as well as volunteering to translate for their French-speaking peers.
The first version of the i4policy vision was first drafted in October 2016 when a smaller group of African innovation hubs, bloggers, entrepreneurs and community catalysts, met in Kigali to discuss their public policy challenges. The current manifesto was achieved through collaborative discussions, with input from the innovation hub managers physically at the event, as well as communities participating virtually from across the continent. The policy manifesto focuses on seven key areas: education, research and development; digital infrastructure; public multidisciplinary spaces; business registration; finance for innovation and entrepreneurship; local and regional markets; and taxation systems.
The African Innovation Hub Convention was also an opportunity for the leaders of existing hub networks and associations active around the continent to share their work and progress with the gathering, with a view to strengthening existing networks and ties between innovation communities on content as well as policy visions. Participants learned about AfriLabs from Anna Ekeledo, they heard from Global Innovation Gathering’s Vicy Wenzelmann, Impact Hub Africa’s Emily Sheldon, Alex Ntale from the Rwandan ICT Chamber, Karimy Sy of JokkoLabs, and René Parker of rLabs, and more.
Rym Jarou, the Talent and Capacity Building Manager at Smart Tunisia spoke about how the recently passed Tunisian Startup Act came to be and shared learnings from that process that can serve as a useful example for startup ecosystems and their respective policy makers across the continent. Jarou recommended her policymaking peers to believe in young people, because they can give you solutions. She further emphasized the importance of involving all stakeholders, which “guarantees two things: implementation and buy-in”.
Her counterpart from the innovation ecosystem, Walid Hached of Cogite, an important coworking space in Tunis, stood by Jarou’s side and shared the ecosystem’s perspective, emphasizing the “amazing bottom-up approach” to developing the policy. “It is time for innovation for policy in Africa”, says Markos Lemma from Ice Addis, Ethiopia. “We are not asking our governments to listen to us anymore. Instead, we will work with them to co-create policies that work for the innovation community. It is not a demand-supply relationship we want to have with policy makers. We want to have a relationship of cooperation and collaboration.”
Other highlights from the African Hub Convention were TED-style talks by CEO of IOHK and
co-founder of Cardano and Ethereum blockchains, Charles Hoskinson, and the special advisor for Smart Africa Secretariat, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, as well as live performances from Rwandan artists.
The hub gathering was co-organized by i4policy, Jamaafunding, Kumasi Hive, the African
Agribusiness Incubator Network and Impact Hub Kigali with support from Deutsche
Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the International Organization of la
Francophonie (OIF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African
Development Bank Group (AfDB), Input Output, R0g, and the Smart Africa Secretariat,
organizers of Transform Africa. The African Union Commission attended as observers.
In many African countries, there are significant barriers to growth for small and medium enterprises, and it gets even more difficult for innovative startups that leverage technologies outside the scope of current legislation, according to Dana Elhassan, at the African Development Bank. “Our mandate at the African Development Bank is to foster inclusive growth for the economies of our member states. But a theoretical, top down approach is no longer sufficient for the purposes of guiding the governments who look to us for advice. Interacting with innovators and entrepreneurs in the context of this bottom-up policy deliberation gives us an opportunity to use our convening power to recommend policy interventions that best serve the interests for which they are intended”, she said.
The i4policy Alliance has begun formalizing a legal structure, bottom-up governance structure and values. A second hub gathering will be organized later this year to validate the legal structure and, importantly, to provide a practical bottom-up training for hub managers on policy support methodologies developed by the community. For example, Kumasi Hive together with 29 other hubs in Ghana formed the Tech and Business Hubs Network (TBHN) to work with the Government to improve the regulatory environment for innovation. Last year, Impact Hub Kigali also developed a policy hackathon methodology for supporting the development of Rwanda’s next seven-year Private Sector Development and Youth Employment Strategy. Civic Innovation Lab and Impact Hub Lagos together with i4policy recently contextualized the policy hackathon methodology and conducted events in Abuja and Lagos to work together with the Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This and other methodologies will be developed into toolkits to support policy engagement at the national level to practically implement this manifesto.
About Impact Hub:
Impact Hub is a global network focused on building communities for impact at scale. With 100+ communities of 16,000+ change-driven entrepreneurs in more than 50 countries across five continents, Impact Hub is the world’s largest community and accelerator for positive change.
Impact Hub supports building ecosystems to drive collaboration and entrepreneurial innovation around the Global Sustainable Development Goals through locally rooted Impact Hubs, as well as partners and allied networks.
Flora Rosenow, Brand and Communications Manager: [email protected]
Edilaine de Abreu, Global Communications Lead: [email protected]
Press Release – Quick Overview
The Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto (i4policy.org/manifesto) was co-created and
endorsed during the i4policy African Innovation Hub Convention (#AIHC18) organized on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit (#TAS2018).
Some highlighted policy recommendations:
● Easing mobility for Africans to travel in Africa
● Adopting the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms
● Simplifying the regulatory environment: starting and closing a business and paying
taxes must be easier and cheaper and fines should be reduced
● Redesigning education curricula together with a broad coalition of partners, such as
labs and civic spaces, to emphasize critical thinking and digital skills, among others
● Increased investment in R&D to accelerate indigenous innovation
90 hubs from 32 countries with communities of more than 450,000 innovators across
the continent have endorsed the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto (in its first 24 hours; see
below, “what is a hub?”). In addition, the major hub networks on the continent have signed:
Afrilabs, the Global Innovation Gathering, Impact Hub Africa, Jokkolabs Global, MEST,
rLabs and Womanity. Furthermore, numerous affiliates and supporters have endorsed the
A smaller group of innovation leaders convened at Impact Hub Kigali on the sidelines
of Transform Africa Summit to co-create the manifesto. 48 ecosystem leaders from 25
African countries, with 56% identifying as female and representing the major linguistic
groups on the continent (Wolof, Swahili, English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Malagasy,
among others) met during the i4policy African Innovation Hub Convention.
These 48 participants co-wrote and unanimously endorsed (with zero abstentions) the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto (i4policy.org/manifesto) over a two-day meeting, then circulated it to their peers. Importantly, the process of developing and endorsing the manifesto was a bottom-up process mirroring the governance and hosting work of the community innovation hubs themselves. The topics were developed by community-appointed representatives. The innovation community provided real-time peer translation, mentorship and leadership. Partner organizations and supporters had “observer” status at the event, and did not participate directly in the deliberations.
During the #i4policy African Innovation Hub Convention on May 6-7 held at Impact
Hub Kigali on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit.