African innovators should not confine themselves to one language to develop innovations aimed at addressing local needs facing Africa.
This emerged on the second day of the Senior Experts Dialogue (SED-2016) on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), under the theme “Cities as Innovation Hubs for Africa’s Transformation”.
The three-day meeting is an initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency, supported by the Department of Science and Technology. The event attracted 21 African countries, including South African metros such as the Cities of Tshwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Speaking during a panel discussion on “Regional Integration and Cities as Hubs of Innovation”, Head of Telecommunications at Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Guichard Tsangou said innovators should not limit their innovations to the English language to crack ideals.
Many innovative ideas and technologies originate from locals but gaps remain between innovative concepts and selling ideas in home languages. Many African countries have recognised the need to develop new cities focused on innovation and the knowledge economy.
“There are thousands of languages spoken in Africa and confining our innovation to one language, English would delay Africa’s agenda to address societal needs through technologies and innovations,” said Mr. Tsangou.
“Linking our innovation with language is misleading,” he said. “Let us develop our innovations to solve our problems in our different languages.”
The meeting also called for regional integration to share innovation across the continent. Delegates believe that integrating African regions is an important component that could add impetus to the transforming of Africa’s cities into hubs of innovation.
Gertrude Ngabirano, Executive Secretary of the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), highlighted the need to integrate regions to promote collaborations and partnerships on the continent.
She said innovation in Africa is lagged behind due to boundaries created by previous regimes.
“If we are integrated as a continent, it will assist us to share information and also learn from each other,” said Ms. Ngabirano.
For instance, she said, many innovators still get resistance from their respective governments.
“There are a lot of our innovators who are unable to commercialise innovation because they need licensing from their governments. As we integrate ourselves, we need to share information on how to get buy in for our politicians.”
Talking about experiences elsewhere that Africa can learn from on cities as hubs of innovation, Professor Hamidou Boly, an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commissioner for Education, Science and Culture, said; “All of us in Africa need to participate and invest in new trends of innovation as most of our cities’ largest population is youth. The future of our youth is worth investing on.”