May 20, 2016 BIH Articles, BIH News

Botswana Innovation Hub Calling All Innovators

By Tigele Mokobi

In the countdown to the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2016 that will be held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) from 22nd – 23rd June, 2016, Botswana Innovation Hub embarked on national roadshows to identify and mobilize the rich cultural traditions and innovations, new technologies and startups across the country.

IPA is a flagship programme of the African Innovation Foundation (AIF), whose purpose is to increase the prosperity of Africans by catalyzing the innovation spirit in Africa. AIF offers several avenues of opportunity for local, national, regional and international growth and exposure of Africa’s next cadre of innovators. The IPA is Africa’s premier initiative which is held annually to promote and reward groundbreaking innovations which address real challenges on the continent.

Botswana Innovation Hub has collaborated with the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology and the AIF to host this year’s award ceremony which marks the fifth year of celebrating African ingenuity through IPA.   The theme for this year’s award ceremony is ‘Made in Africa,’ based on the belief that Africa can position itself on the world map through self-innovation, carving its own success story of growth economies and creating incentives to commercialize and scale up home-grown innovations.

The IPA requires host countries to embark on national roadshows as part of an outreach initiative to identify local innovators who are solving their communities’ most pressing problems as well as register them for participation in the next rounds of the competition. The Botswana Innovation Hub roadshow which began in Ghanzi, and covered Maun, Selibe Phikwe and Francistown among others is part of the elaborate mobilization to build a local culture of innovation and inspire submissions for the IPA’s first ever Innovation Ecosystem Connector at the Innovation Village.

The Innovation Ecosystem Connector is an exposition of Pan African ingenuity in an Innovation Village that will be set up at the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park on the 22nd June, 2016. The Innovation Village brings together the African community of problem solvers in an elaborate celebration of Africa’s ingenuity. Innovators selected from the roadshow as well as finalists for the IPA 2016 will showcase their creations at the Innovation Village.

Cluster Development Director at Botswana Innovation Hub Dr Budzanani Tacheba says that the Innovation Village will allow the country to showcase the epitome of innovation in Africa here in Gaborone. He says, “The Innovation Village will allow local innovators, inventors, our partners and the general public to appreciate Africa level innovation funding framework, motivate innovators in the critical work they do and demonstrate that there are rewards for being innovative.”

Dr Tacheba went on to say the ‘Made in Africa’ theme heralds a message of enterprise and prosperity for African innovators, as IPA encourages more Africans, especially young people and women to catalyze transformation through innovation – not only in their lives – but for the broader community and their respective economies.

“The theme promises to be ground-breaking, extending beyond the awards ceremony by providing an unprecedented platform for African innovators and innovation enablers to network, share knowledge, explore business opportunities and boost collaboration.” He said.

Botswana’s selection as host country for IPA 2016 is seen in its commitment towards building its national innovation ecosystem. This is demonstrated by the Government of Botswana’s catalytic role in capitalizing on and supporting the knowledge economy through the development of the country’s first Science and Technology Park, the Botswana Innovation Hub.

“Hosting IPA 2016, as Botswana celebrates her 50th anniversary, and celebrating African ingenuity in Gaborone will afford Botswana an opportunity to showcase its commitment to putting innovation at the center of its development strategy,” states Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Honorable Nonofo Molefhi.

For his part, AIF Chairman of the Board, Walter Fust, declares that, “We are delighted to collaborate with the Government of Botswana in celebrating African ingenuity. With its many inspiring and success stories, Botswana is an excellent choice to host the 5th edition of IPA, helping us continue to catalyze the innovation spirit in Africa”.

Recognized as Africa’s leading innovation initiative based on its track record since its inaugural, the IPA has attracted more than 6000 innovators from 50 African countries, making it a truly Pan-African initiative.  Prizes for the IPA 2016 awards are structured as follows:

  • Grand prize of US$100 000
  • Second Prize of US$25 000
  • Special Prize for Social Impact US$25 000
  • A voucher for each IPA nominee of US$5 000
  • Business development support for top 10 young innovators selected post Awards event
  • Business development support for top 10 women innovators selected post Awards event.

The IPA Call for Applications ran from August to October 2015 and attracted more than 3600 respondents from 50 African countries, clearly demonstrating the creative potential that exists in Africa. Proposed innovations showcased African ingenuity in diverse fields, from agriculture and technologies to green energy initiatives. The expert panel of judges will carefully select Africa’s new crop of ingenuity this year from 985 successful submissions spanning 46 African countries through a rigorous, transparent process of critique, validation, interview and consensus.

Since its inauguration, the awards were supported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and endorsed by Ministers attending the Africa Union (AU)/ECA) conference in 2012,  IPA has been successfully celebrated in African major capitals representing African regions: Addis Ababa (2011), Cape Town (2013), Abuja (2014), and more recently in Skhirat, Morocco (2015).