And just like that, another year is here! 2017 will quickly become a distant memory as 2018 takes hold. Yes, for another week or so we may still write the wrong date on our documents, but regardless, 2018 will charge on bringing us exciting new innovations. We may still not have the flying car, but in Africa, the momentum of change is creating opportunities for many across the continent. Anyone that reads just a little about Africa, and not necessarily about innovation in Africa, will know that the rapid increase in mobile phone and internet usage across the continent has made a dramatic change. This is old news now, but has created a foundation for solutions across all sectors, from farming, to banking and the transport system.
2018 will solidify and build on these solutions. Tech hubs, maker spaces and incubators will continue to drive African youth and entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and push their innovations. Some may not succeed with their ideas, but each set back gives them new skills and better experience to take on into their next ventures. But it isn’t just these spaces that are driving change.
In recent years, many awards have popped up across the continent, celebrating innovators and their ideas. 2018 won’t be any different with the prizes becoming more prominent, bigger, and receiving more attention from the media, both in Africa and across the world. (African Innovation is now big news!)
Our favourites are:
Innovation Prize for Africa, which will take place in June or July, and offers $185,000 in total to all the winners and shortlisted nominees. (You have until the close of the day on 10th of January to submit your application) Winners of the IPA often go on to even bigger and better things, which comes from the profile they get form the competition. Read about the last winners here.
Seedstars Africa, who travel the continent choosing the best innovations from each country to battle it out to be the best of Africa and then compete with innovations worldwide. We will have to wait all the way to December to discover the final winner, but they promise to find the very best innovations from around the continent and showcase them. Read about previous winners here.
Aid & International Development Forum first Innovator of the Year Award. AIDF are soon holding their second Forum, in February in Kenya. There is still time to book your spot at the event, which we expect to excite with its new innovation award. We we are honoured to be media partners for the event. Check it out here.
The AppsAfrica Award is another innovation prize that always features exciting apps and other innovations from the continent. It is always an exciting moment when they announce their nominees. Their next award ceremony has not been announced yet, but in the mean time they have their Tech Summit in Kenya in February, and in London in May. (And you may see me at the event in May!) There is lots more on their innovations here.
These are just a few of the awards that take place across the continent. Each one offers new incites into the development of African creativity, and takes the continent a step closer towards being the leading continent for innovation. You may be sceptical about this, but I believe it to be a strong possibility. Those who have grown up in Africa are by nature innovative. They have had to nurture creativity to overcome problems, and with the right skills, can use that to solve issues around the world.
At the end of 2017, Bitcoin was one of the biggest news stories, with it increasing in value at break net speed, only to crash unceremoniously. (Although it has stabilised at the time of writing) Cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology will continue to make the news in Africa this year. It is likely that other cryptocurrencies may start to gain confidence across the country, especially if it can linked with mobile money, that continues to gain in popularity. Blockchain tech itself will also continue to help secure some industries, not just payments. It can help in land ownership, investments, and many other solutions that we expect to hear more about throughout the year.
Agriculture should continue to receive attention from governments, investors and innovators, as to develop the sector further and not rely on agricultural imports quite so much. We expect to also see further developments in African smart cities and the Internet of Things. With sensors and cameras now possible because of the spread of internet, people can now monitor their businesses, their health, their building projects and even work out the best route to work in the morning. The IoT will bring a lot of changes in 2018 and the coming years. Policy must keep up with these changes.
Inventive Africa in Kenya!
Inventive Africa will be starting the year with a bang! Later this month, I will be in Kenya for a couple of weeks, to check out the remarkable innovations that are being pioneered there. We will be interviewing some exciting young entrepreneurs about their ideas. We will be live streaming on our Facebook page, and updating you all about the innovations we come across on the blog and Twitter. If you are interested in telling us about your ideas and featuring on Inventive Africa, please get in contact and we will arrange a time to meet and record and interview! I am excited to meet you all and hear about your experiences as entrepreneurs in Kenya!
2018 will be an exciting year for anyone involved in African innovation and there are great opportunities out there for anyone thinking about starting a business, or investing in one!