Building a Collaboratively Network of Innovation Agencies in Africa

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Johannesburg – On Friday 01 March 2024 the Trilateral Chair in Transformative Innovation, the 4IR and Sustainable Development at the University of Johannesburg held a workshop to discuss the results of a research project investigating the landscape of innovation agencies in Africa. It also facilitated the sharing of best practices, resources, and knowledge to spur innovation that drives sustainable and inclusive development across the continent. The workshop led to a commitment to start a network of innovation agencies in Africa.

This event brought together nearly 50 participants from across the world. They included leaders and representatives of innovation agencies in various African countries; experts and scholars working in the field of innovation and development; representatives from international organisations supporting innovation and development in Africa; and regional organisations fostering regional collaboration in science, technology, and innovation.

Innovation agencies are defined by the project as specialised organisations, either government-run, private entities or a mix of the above, designed to promote and support the development, dissemination and application of innovation within the African context. Of particular interest were agencies with a remit to strengthen national innovation systems and their linkages with other key organisations in their respective countries.

During the workshop discussions focused on four topics: (1) the regional innovation landscape in Africa and its relevance to development priorities; (2) the challenges facing innovation agencies in supporting strong national innovation systems; (3) untapped opportunities at both the regional and national levels; and (4) discussions on skills and capabilities, especially highlighting the importance of co-learning and sharing of knowledge between more established innovation agencies and those that were more recently established.

Based on a shared understanding of the core functions of innovation agencies, the workshop led to new ideas for joint action, such as the creation of collective funding mechanisms, or sharing policies to promote more inclusivity, on the co-creation of new business models to support the digital economy. These discussions highlighted the opportunities for synergies and support to be provided through a new network of innovation agencies on the African continent. Concrete actions and a way forward were discussed and will follow in due course.

The project and the workshop were supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in collaboration with the South African National Research Foundation