Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform, launched the first edition of its Innovation Challenge at the 2019 Transform Africa Summit holding in Kigali from 14 to 17 May. Through this initiative, Africa50 will crowdsource innovative solutions to help increase access to high-speed internet in under-served areas in Africa.
The call is open for ICT developers, innovators, engineers, entrepreneurs to submit workable solutions, via an online platform, to be assessed by the Africa50 investment team and its partners. The winning solutions will receive cash prizes and/or will be considered for project development funding. Projects will be rolled-out in Rwanda as the pilot country, with the objective to scale them up to other countries in Africa.
Despite significant progress in recent years, 75% of Africans still do not have access to the internet. In today’s digital age, they are missing out on one of the best ways to access knowledge, social services and economic opportunities.
At the launch, Chief Operating Officer Carole Wainaina said: “As a pan-African investment entity, we are committed to contribute to our continent’s most critical and pressing development challenges. Internet connectivity is a key driver for inclusive growth, provided it is accessible, affordable, easy-to-use and adapted to people’s needs. This Challenge is an exciting opportunity for us to engage with the most creative minds to find novel solutions that can help address all these factors and tackle last mile connectivity in a holistic and sustainable manner. We see this as a huge opportunity and are ready to work with savvy investors and innovators, acting as a bridge to regulators and governments.”
Earlier during the launch ceremony, Mr. Lacina Koné, the Director General of Smart Africa, the entity organizing the Transform Africa Summit, said “Africa50’s Innovation Challenge is in line with Smart Africa’s vision of developing the continent’s single digital market. Indeed, this endeavor will require collaborative efforts from all players in the connectivity value chain, and the financing of infrastructure is a critical element. We would like to commend Africa50 for this initiative and we look forward to the outcome of the challenge.”
For this Challenge Africa50 will exceptionally consider projects at pilot stage, with smaller funding needs, with the intention of scaling them up into bankable projects with broad impact.
Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobissé said “Africa needs to join the fourth industrial revolution, and we are ready to contribute by promoting innovation. Rwanda, one of our shareholders, is a great example, having developed a thriving ICT sector through enlightened leadership and an enabling regulatory environment. We see synergies between our Innovation Challenge and our co-development of Kigali Innovation City, a major tech hub. In fact, Rwanda is an ideal pilot country for implementing the solutions we hope to find. We can validate the concepts and technologies there before rolling them out in other countries.”
Africa50 is implementing the challenge in partnership with DysruptUs, a firm specializing in the organization of innovation challenges to solve global social and economic needs, and with Informa, a leading international events and knowledge group.
Through the platform, the solutions can be submitted worldwide.
Individuals and organizations with a strong passion for developing innovative solutions are encouraged to apply. Submitted solutions to the Challenge will be reviewed by a group of experts in ICT, investment, and international development. Finalists will be invited to present their solutions at AfricaCom in November 2019 in Cape Town.
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