“As Africans we have to develop our own ideas, develop the capacity for innovation, and be creative in how we leverage existing technologies and capabilities and nuance them for the African context,” says Nigerian born Julius Akinyemi, who has always been passionate about innovation and now, more than ever, is doing what he can to nurture it in Africa.
Rather than importing innovative ideas from the developed world, Akinyemi says, Africa must learn to develop its own. “We’re in a time where innovation is of the utmost importance for economics, it is the engine that drives economic development,” he says.
Working on local shores
This year Akinyemi will be bringing his extensive experience in innovation to bear on a new initiative at the UCT Graduate School of Business. As Visiting Innovation Fellow, he will be working with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship and others at the business school to develop a new inclusive innovation hub.
Called Workshop 17 and situated at the V&A Waterfront alongside the business school’s campus, the hub will be a dedicated space to invent, prototype and test unorthodox solutions and approaches to African challenges. In doing this it will draw some of its inspiration from the MIT Media Lab’s multidisciplinary approach to innovation.
“This is the first inclusive innovation hub in Africa and is unique in the world because it is more than just an incubator,” says Akinyemi. “It’s a place where everything from research right through to sourcing capital for new businesses is done under one roof. No one else in the world is doing it this way.”
The beauty of it, according to Akinyemi, and indeed what excites him so much about being a part of the hub, is that Workshop 17 will eventually become a platform from which the fruits of Africa’s intellectual capacity can be presented to the world, fully formed and ready to implement.