There is no problem in electricity, road construction, transportation or agriculture that someone has not thought about in Africa. From our universities to our research institutes, we have inventions (yes, ideas) for most of the challenges. But despite these inventions, we do not have the products as we continue to experience poor electricity supply, poor roads, poor transportation networks, etc. If you visit food and drinking joints across most African cities, you will be amazed on ideas emanating from people on how to fix our challenges. Indeed, our continent is rich in invention. We are creative.
However, Africa struggles on innovation. That transition from invention to innovation remains our weakest link. We have the idea on how to pipe water from the ground in the Savannah for people to drink. Yet, we do not do it as people continue to struggle with clean water. We have the idea on how to provide the electricity. Yet, it has not been done. So ideas everywhere, but we struggle on product scarcity.
There is a fundamental reason why we have ideas everywhere but people cannot find products to buy. We are inventive but we are not innovative. In this video, I explain how we can change that by looking at more than 500 years of data on the acceleration of human capability to transition from inventive societies into innovative societies in the Western World. I also provide a key enabler that made that transition possible.
I am revisiting this topic as I continue to struggle on our readiness on building the core pillars to accelerate innovation as I did note in my new book – Africa’s Sankofa Innovation.
There are things which you cannot leapfrog, but you can create new basis of engagement. That you are sending drugs with drones to villagers does not mean that we do not need roads for farmers. That you are using mobile apps to bank does not mean that banks should not have rural branches to support farmers and traders on their financial strategies. By trivializing our deficiencies through the ephemeral modern technologies, we lose the capabilities to architect an enduring future for innovation.