Africa is rising. Purportedly. Significant investment in technology entrepreneurship, as a driving force for socio- economic development, is increasingly evident across the continent. There are high hopes for real transformation and technological progress. NGOs, Governments and multi-lateral actors are setting the foundations of support and offering financial backing. Corporations are actively courting the next generation of start-ups and building programmes aimed at delivering mutual advantage. Opportunities appear abound.
Against this backdrop, we analysed parts of the innovation ecosystem to demystify and explain the crowded space, to unearth the meaningful signals from the complex noise. We have cast a spotlight on how relationships between corporate accelerators and start-up businesses might be exemplary and how these ecosystem structures can, in the future, offer routes for transformative change in Africa, despite concerns about their current effectiveness.
We fear that the promise of hope will prove false if existing approaches to catalysing the innovation ecosystem subsist. Recognising the limitations of an imported - non- adaptive – incubation and acceleration model is the right first step. More radical breakthrough thinking should come next alongside collaborative leadership, smarter strategic partnerships and better capacity-building efforts aligned to actuals needs; as well as localised, agile solutions. This must be the future direction of travel for transformative change to occur for Africa to finally realise its true potential. We need to ask whether we are continuously and consecutively placing resources, time, and investment in the wrong places in mistaken ways. We should imagine and devise a better, more equal, and far more sustainable approach to exceed wider socio-economic objectives.
Section one sets the context by providing a snapshot of the sub-Sahara African innovation support ecosystem while addressing several criticisms that have been rightly raised.
Section two describes corporate and start-up engagement and offers guidance on how corporate accelerators might function more successfully.
Section three offers insights into how strategic developments could lead the transformative change necessary in Africa due to both structural complexities and challenging market dynamics.