Notes from the AfricaLics Academy Innovation and Development in Africa Conference, 19th - 30th November, 2012, Moi University, Kenya
1. The People and The Challenges
From Morocco to South Africa; Dominican to Kashmir; Equatorial Guinea to Nigeria; Ghana to Ethiopia; Zimbabwe to Uganda; Kenya to Tanzania; and Senegal to Cameroon…one thing remained clear- Africa is in need of a new thinking and this new thinking should certainly have innovation at the grass roots as the driver of wealth creation if growth is to be inclusive and the natural environment protected. Whiles countries in the south like South Africa and Zimbabwe are in need of creativity to reduce unemployment, Kenya and Tanzania in the East of Africa are seeking answers for reliable sources of water for food production. In Uganda, food producers are badly in need of preservation methods to ensure distribution overtime. In Nigeria and Cameroon, amidst the abundance of crude oil, refined petroleum products continues to be imported, with local oil refineries barely producing a drop of oil a day- can their experience in palm oil refinery at medium scale level be harnessed and extended to refine crude?
Answers to some of the unending African questions will require reliable insight from evidence based research over time and space. To see this objective through, it was clear from the 2-week long Africalics conference that, young researchers will need to focus on these issues and dedicate time and resources to it. Networking and information sharing, was agreed could be conduits for using our limited research resources effectively- it is essential that wheel reinvention is avoided so that whatever funds we have for knowledge generation will not be thrown into pits which are already full. The call for local and regional government to support investigations pertaining to grass root innovation was also prominent. Flagships of user driven innovations and university led discoveries from Kenya such as the M-PESA and a locally manufactured dye for cloth manufacture were also praised highly. While the former breakthrough came from ingenuity, the latter was driven by government willingness to fund research. Thus there is the agreement that creativity and funding should go side by side in any forward looking strategies we adopt.
Advocacy guided by sound arguments based on research findings that have been generated by people who understand the issues should be the key for moving forward. Research should focus on trying to explain deviations from the normal. Emphases should be placed on public and private partnerships that will facilitate efforts in linking research institutions with the real productive sectors. The missing link between academia and the town is also a matter of concern and to that end universities and polytechnics should see their existence as an important tool for solving grass root problems.
'If you want to know more about the research DPP staff and students are doing in this area visit www.ipg.open.ac.uk'