Innovation is at the core of Canadian approaches to socioeconomic development and Canada’s emphasis on innovation is often highlighted by distinctively consistent financing of Innovation. This includes 700M$ in funds recently earmarked by the Government of Quebec to sustain innovative manufacturing ventures in Quebec, or the 36 M$ fund allocated to the research project on “Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa “(IMCHA) and jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Global Affairs Canada, and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
The IMCHA project, which the aim is to “improve maternal, newborn, and child health by using primary health care as an entry point to strengthen health systems, ensuring they are more equitable…” displays a feminist approach to innovation and international development that primarily focuses on women and children issues and concerns as the backbone of north-south cooperative agendas. Legitimate approach that however should now also consider entrepreneurial and technological innovation as a focus point of international cooperation and development initiatives.
Canada’s innovative fiber and legacy is globally celebrated and Africa yearns to tap into this innovative potential by seeking and involving Canadians professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses in local development initiatives. Africa is now the battleground where the global community addresses various issues and challenges, of global relevance, that still interferes with globalised socioeconomic development; and indeed, Africa is where the future of humanity lies.
The strategic place of Africa in our global future was in fact the main topic of the Vivatech conference that took place in Paris from May 24 to May 26, 2018. During this event, notable guest speakers, such as, Emmanuel Macron (current French president) and Paul Kagame (current African Union president and Rwanda president) underscored the huge technological and innovative potential of African start-ups; both speakers highlighted the crucial contribution of African start-ups to global technological advancements. President Macron also first revealed a 65M$ investment on African start-ups made by the French government, via the governmental institution Agence Française de Développement. A broad Francophone digital strategy is thus being implemented that puts Africa at the centre of international cooperation initiatives and emphasises technological innovation as the cornerstone of development. Corporations in the North are consequently re-strategizing and redefining their approaches to business in the continent as several axes of commercial cooperation are being organised. Governmental institutions are too following suit, and it is to be noted that Quebec has recently opened a General delegation (the most important office of Québec abroad) in Africa, namely in Dakar, Senegal.
Meanwhile, in Africa, processes and initiatives supporting innovation are gearing up, with the recently implemented « Startup Act » that catalyses Tunisian TICs sectors and the scheduled creation, still in Tunisia, of an African Centre for Digital Technology. An International Trade Fair on ICT also unfolded in Tunis from April 10 to 12, 2018, with the presence of a significant Canadian delegation composed by entrepreneurs and officials from Quebec and Canada.
Africa’s potential is real and certain, despite the continent still facing technological hurdles that constrains the growth of several sectors, such as, the energy sector, education, farming and agriculture, environmental protection and infrastructures, both public and private. Innovative solutions are thus needed and the continent could learn from Canada’s successful experiences and mishaps. Let’s discuss this further on the 15th and 16th October of 2018 at the International Forum on African Digital Potential in Montreal.