African innovations for African problems


The web and media are abuzz with Ebola these days. A westerner gets infected and all media outlets provide wide coverage on all the details. But we all know the epicentre of it, Africa. According to the World Health Organization the death toll has surpassed the 4000 mark. But Ebola is nothing new is it? Just like Malaria, so far the biggest killer in Africa. Ebola gets a lot of attention largely because everyone (Africans and the world) is at risk (not necessarily the case with malaria). As it is typically the case, African Governments are desperately looking for the West to bring a cure. When news of Zmapp came, many Africans saw in this, once again, an innovative solution coming from somewhere else to solve an African problem.

Isn’t it time to stop though? Stop and think for a while about innovation from an African perspective. Why is it that after years of independence from colonial rule, we still have to look to them? Are Africans not going to the best universities in the world? Don’t they work for the best possible organizations and companies out there? And isn’t it time we started truly looking from within to solve our problems? I know these questions have been asked a lot already. Much has been said about the flight of talents from the continent. Many well-educated Sub-Saharan Africans feel they have better opportunities out of their respective homelands and it is easy to see why. It is often simplistic to assume they leave their countries just because they want to earn better wages. This is only one among many other reasons. Fostering a real culture of innovation for Africa comes down to a lot of factors, but these three are key to solving our problems: liberalizing free thinking, supporting our innovation environment and leveraging our talents.

Liberalizing free thinking

Free thinking was the basis of the enlightenment movement in the 18th century. The enlightenment movement later brought about the industrial revolution whose ripple effects still affect our daily lives today. Authors like Emmanuel Kant with its famous quote “sapere aude”, dare to know in English were instrumental to the enlightenment movement. The African enlightenment movement is long overdue. Our fathers fought for our political independence, we need to fight for our economic independence. This starts with an audacity to think differently. Governments in Africa should encourage rather than deter it and civil societies should demand it. Real solutions to African problems will come when people are free to open up and think about the issues that affect us from a real critical perspective. We should not let the economist or the financial times tell us about our immense growth prospects. So long as double digit growth figures do not provide jobs, shelter and food, Africa is not thinking and Africa is not rising. Besides it is not like we are not thinking already, we are but we need to think more especially about our innovation environment.

Supporting our Innovation Environment

When Arthur Zang realised 30% of Cameroon’s 22 million people suffer from high blood pressure, a key contributing factor to heart disease, he designed cardio pad. This a touchscreen device that serves as a complete diagnostic kit for people in remote area. His effort has drawn a lot of attention. From being featured on forbes, to winning a rolex award and recently speaking at Ted, Arthur Zang has been making a big name for himself. True he has been receiving a lot of attention from local news outlets in Africa but very little support, save from the FCFA 20 million ($385050) awarded to him by President Paul Biya of Cameroon. This is a student from poorly equipped university of Cameroon. Shouldn’t people and governments take notice to provide more enabling environments from our scientists? Like previously stated above, our talents are not leaving for wages related issues only, many of them don’t find in Africa the kind of environment that enables them to excel at what they do. Africans typically make a name for themselves abroad before coming back. Should it not be the opposite? How do we leverage our talents?

Leveraging our talents

This is not just bringing our best brains back. It is actually formulating a strategy on how to best use the resources we have out of the continent. It is providing better incentives (not just financial) in order to attract our best talents. It is more importantly, outlining a vision that is inspiring enough to get talents to believe in Africa. It is frustrating when foreign news outlets tell us how rich we are and how great we could be as if we did not know that ourselves.  We don’t care whether the French, British or Americans believe in our potentials. We do care however about the kind of vision and strategy our governments are articulating so millions can be lifted out of poverty. This is in part down to getting the most talented Africans together so they can solve our problems. From Ebola, Malaria, education, access to basic healthcare, infrastructure and energy, access to food and water there is no shortage of challenges to tackle and it is about time we get to critically think about innovation from an African perspective, provide a more enabling environment for our talents and leveraging them to grow in a manner that benefits all. This is not only possible but very realistic.

Patrick Mayoh

Patrick Mayoh is an In-country analyst for Euromonitor International.


  1. Hi there terrific blog! Does running a blog like this take a lot of work? I’ve no understanding of programming but I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyhow, should you have any recommendations or tips for new blog owners please share. I know this is off topic however I simply needed to ask. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: treadmill reviews
  3. This is a great way to express your thoughts and we should all take advantage of your post in order to explain the matter much deeper! Many thanks for taking the time to research this for us.

  4. I simply intend to reveal to you which I’m just novice to blogging and absolutely cherished your webpage. Very possible I am probably to bookmark your site post . You truly have magnificent article material. Like it for giving out with us your web page.

  5. It’s almost unthinkable to see well-qualified parties on this area, regrettably you seem like you realize which you’re raving about! Excellent

  6. Hi are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  7. Pingback: hymenoplasty
  8. Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent blog!

  9. Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  10. It can be practically extremely difficult to see well-updated individuals on this niche, however you look like you fully grasp the things that you’re writing about! Appreciation

  11. I am curious to find out what blog platform you have been working with? I’m having some small security issues with my latest website and I’d like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any suggestions?

  12. My developer is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on numerous websites for about a year and am worried about switching to another platform. I have heard great things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!

  13. This design is incredible! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  14. Hey outstanding website! Does running a blog like this require a great deal of work? I have absolutely no understanding of computer programming but I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyways, should you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share. I know this is off topic nevertheless I just had to ask. Thanks!

  15. Excellent blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Appreciate it!

  16. My coder is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on several websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another platform. I have heard fantastic things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress posts into it? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  17. Hello fantastic website! Does running a blog like this require a large amount of work? I’ve absolutely no understanding of programming however I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyway, should you have any suggestions or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject however I simply had to ask. Thanks!

  18. Pingback: Sun knowledge

Comments are closed.