An innovation workshop in the Seychelles is spurring the transformation of the Commonwealth into a more connected network of countries ready to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
The Seychelles government, and National Institute of Science, Technology and Innovation, have joined forces with the Commonwealth to host the first ever Commonwealth Africa Innovation Ecosystem Workshop.
Government officials, academics, entrepreneurs and international organisations from across Africa are among 50 innovators meeting to share best practices and insights into peer-to-peer learning and capacity building, through a combination of presentations, case study analysis, data review, simulations, networking and debate.
The workshop opened with Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland praising Seychelles as an “innovation trailblazer”. She said: “Your leadership is showing the rest of the world how innovation can help address the challenge of climate change and threats to the blue economy.
“We believe in the critical importance of Commonwealth countries adopting a whole government approach to innovation, which is key to our future development, prosperity and security.
“This requires a strategic shift in mind-set and work modes that the Commonwealth Secretariat is ideally placed to lead on."
The Secretary-General said embracing, incubating and scaling innovation as well as digital transformation will be vital in helping Commonwealth countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
She added: “Having had the honour of travelling to many Commonwealth Africa countries, I have met many Zuckerbergs and Musks, we owe it to them to give them the tools and enabling environment with which to fully realise their potential.”
Launching the workshop, Vice-President of Seychelles Vincent Meriton said: “Our region, compared to others, stands to reap the greatest benefits of the digital age. And the only barriers that can prevent us from so doing are our lack of imagination, our inertia and timidity. The Fourth Industrial Revolution beckons, and Africa cannot stand at the periphery and remain a bystander and an onlooker”.
Vice-President Meriton and the Secretary-General presented a certificate, trophy and cash prize of £2,000 to John Oroko, a Kenyan social entrepreneur and one of the winners of the first ever Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for SDG awards.
The Secretary-General also gave details of the number of the Commonwealth secretariat’s initiatives including the Commonwealth Innovation Hub to support member states. The Hub is a digital and data platform dedicated to developing and delivering innovative solutions, aimed at accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Commonwealth countries.
The Secretary-General and Assistant-Secretary-General Nabeel Goheer signed an MOU with the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences Next Einstein Forum which will help promote STEM education and innovation in Commonwealth Africa and another with the Global Innovation Technology Alliance for an innovation accelerator created by the government of India to strengthen South-South Cooperation and public private partnership by connecting, mentoring and financing African innovators.
The Commonwealth Secretariat was pleased to facilitate the participation at this workshop of partner organisations such as UNCTAD, UNOPS, NESTA and ABE, a leading provider of skills and vocational training in Africa. Participants at the workshop included government officials from several African member states, including Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa. Young innovators from Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya and Rwanda, all members of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs in Africa, were also among those who participated in this workshop.