With 75 percent or 980.2 million of Africa’s 1.307 billion people yet without access to internet, Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform, has launched a first edition of its ‘Innovation Challenge,’ an initiative that would enable it (Africa50) to 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 on the continent to submit workable solutions, via an online platform, to be assessed by the Africa50 investment team and its partners. Submitted solutions to the challenge would 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, South Africa.
Africa50 is an infrastructure investment platform that contributes to Africa’s growth by developing and investing in bankable projects, catalyzing public sector capital, and mobilizing private sector funding, with differentiated financial returns and impact. Its investor base is currently composed of 27 African countries, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Central Bank of West African states (BCEAO) and Bank Al-Maghrib, with over $870 million in committed capital.
A statement by Fleur Tchibota, head of communications, Africa50 made available to business a.m. said 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
Africa, is a continent of 1.307 billion people, with an aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.19 trillion (nominal 2017).
Carole Wainaina, chief operating officer of Africa50 said, despite significant progress in recent years, 75% of Africans (or 980.2 million people) 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,” she said at the launch of the 2019 Transform Africa summit which held in Kigali, Rwanda from 14 to 17 May.
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.”
Nigeria, although has largest internet users in Africa, with 91.88 million users, this is however blighted by Rwanda’s thriving ICT sector, which would be topped with the incoming Kigali Innovation City, a major tech hub.
With the city, Rwanda is coming off as a pilot country in Africa50’s innovation challenge for a ‘Smart Africa’ a vision to develop the continent’s single digital market.
For the 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 chief executive officer Alain Ebobissé said: “Africa needs to join the fourth industrial revolution, and we are ready to contribute by promoting innovation.” He commended Rwanda as a great example, having developed a thriving ICT sector through enlightened leadership and an enabling regulatory environment.
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.