A Forbes headline caught my eye earlier this year: Why Africa has the ability to leapfrog the rest of the world with innovation. I read it again. The powerful message here is that Africa is not just catching up, it’s steaming ahead. And that’s exactly why we at Djembe are so passionate about Africa’s potential and growth.
Innovation is what is driving (and delivering) this potential. In Rwanda alone we’ve just seen the first ever smartphone wholly sourced and manufactured on the continent. The same pioneering country is planning on sending its second satellite into space and already delivering blood and urgent medicines via drones.
But it was our work with the Zayed Sustainability Prize earlier this year that hammered it home. The Zayed Sustainability Prize is a $3 million annual prize that rewards innovations aligned to sustainable development, broken into five categories: health, food, energy, water, and global high schools.
For the second consecutive year, Djembe implemented a communications program across the continent to drive entries to the Prize from innovative businesses across North and sub-Saharan Africa. We physically presented the Prize in Ghana, Ethiopia and Morocco, while actively targeting the entire continent from every angle through our network of innovation hubs and incubators to promote African entries.
Ethiopia had been on my travel list for years and witnessing first-hand the remarkable spirit of entrepreneurs in Addis alone (for there are plenty more scattered across the country), filled me with excitement.
On our home turf, we were welcomed to the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre which sits on site at Ashesi University. Speaking with attendees after our presentation I gained incredible insight into small and medium-scale solutions that are already impacting the lives of communities by tackling waste, fighting for gender equality, and providing skilled and sustainable employment.
The Prize received a record-breaking total of 2,373 submissions – an increase of 13% on last year. Africa retained its status as a top region, with Nigeria performing in the top five of all countries globally. When the shortlist was announced last week, we were thrilled to see three African markets represented in the finalists, both in the Health (Rwanda and Cameroon) and Food (Ghana) categories.
Since its inception in 2008, the initiative (which was borne out of the UAE) has impacted 318 million lives. Emerging markets accounted for 74% of this year’s entries – from smart, ambitious entrepreneurs creating solutions to tackle issues that not only affect Africa but lives all over the world.
Our work around innovation allows us to help communicate stories that are driving economic transformation and social change across Africa. The opportunities are endless. The potential scale is inspiring. I can’t wait to see what the next quarter brings.
James Deacon, Account Director, Ghana