Africa: Digital Experts Discuss Homegrown Innovations in Africa

In an era marked by the rapid advancement of technology, Africa is emerging as a hub of innovation driven by digital experts. They not only embrace cutting-edge digital solutions but also engage in cultivating homegrown innovations that play a role in reshaping the continent’s technological landscape.

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During the final event of the Wehubit Programme on September 13, different experts in the field of digital innovation in Africa along with partners and stakeholders gathered to discuss “homegrown” digital innovations on the continent.

Initiated by Belgian development agency, Enabel, in partnership with the European Union (EU), the Wehubit programme aimed to support five digital social innovation projects, specifically focused on education technology in Rwanda, with a particular emphasis on improving the learning environment for disadvantaged areas.

Speaking during the event, Esther Kunda, Director General of Innovation and Emerging Technologies at the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, reflected on Rwanda’s journey toward embracing homegrown solutions.

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She declared that Vision 2050 aims to promote the well-being of Rwandans by 2050, adding that over the last two decades, the government has placed ICT as a key accelerator to enhance the country’s economic growth.

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“When you think about homegrown solutions, it might be an idea that originates from anywhere, but it should address the challenges we face today and deliver the solutions we need,” she said.

Kunda further noted that building home grown innovations is a long-term goal requiring the active involvement of the government, development partners, innovators, and researchers. She acknowledged Enabel and EU’s role in initiating support, both financial and in building networks, to facilitate discussions about achieving impactful changes through Wehubit programme.

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She emphasised the importance of inclusivity in terms of digital access and skills for every Rwandan and African, suggesting adapting emerging technologies to people’s existing knowledge and highlighting the need for affordable digital literacy and inclusion for the benefit of all.

Jean-Michel Swalens, Head of cooperation at the Belgian Embassy highlighted that digital innovation is a catalyst for transformative change and sustainable development that has the power to address unique challenges faced by African countries and their communities.

He recognised the successful and positive role that the concept of homegrown solutions has played in Rwanda, based on local opportunities, cultural values, and history to fast-track its development.

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Swalens expressed Belgium’s support for African entrepreneurs and digital change makers and highlighted the role of Enabel in promoting innovation in Africa.

One of the projects within the phase 1 of Wehubit programme involved the University of Rwanda (UR), which was establishing six additional campuses equipped with state-of-the-art studios to create online educational resources.

According to Michela Tomasella, the Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Rwanda, the project sought to enhance the existing digital learning environment by providing a more robust and proven learning system.

“Today, more than ever, technology might be integrating the education system. While it was a choice in the past to have this digitalisation, a digital component in our education system, now, I would say, is as essential and mandatory to take into account when designing all our interventions,” she noted.

Tomasella highlighted that the Wehubit programme addressed various sectors, including EdTech, resilient citizens, climate smart study, career development, and women empowerment, the initiatives she said aligned with the EU’s ongoing support for the Rwandan government.

She thanked the grantees for their incredible work and contributions to the fair, inclusive, and transformative digitalisation of key sectors in Rwanda’s economy.