Earlier this year, AfriTech XYZ launched an Innovation Prize, to highlight and support some of the most innovative early-stage clean energy start-ups in Sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the prize, a group of start-ups with the potential to solve a pan-African (or global) problem are provided with access to experts and opportunities that will challenge them to think bigger, build quicker, and do so sustainability. AfriTech XYZ community lead, Tosin Omowole, sought to find out what some of Africa's Most successful entrepreneurs defined the term ‘innovation’ for themselves.
Defining the term
‘Innovation’ is a word that floats around our everyday lives, especially when building a new product or service. This is especially true for the African technology industry where we have some of the world's brightest minds building to solve problems in different sectors on the continent.
Although the Oxford dictionary defines ‘innovation’ as the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something, innovation means different things to different people, and can be described in a myriad of terms. So let’s find out how some of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs define what innovation means to them.
Adewale Yusuf, TalentQL - Innovation means doing it differently and also meeting people’s needs.
Tunde Kara, Vendease Africa - in a nutshell, it is simplifying complex processes. One of the hardest things to do is to be simple!
Joe Kinvi, HoaQ - it means finding new ways to solve existing problems. The problem we are constantly trying to solve is how to do things faster and this will continue.
Angie Madara, Growd - it means changing lives for the better. If an ‘innovation’ doesn't make lives better, then it shouldn't be referred to as innovation.
Josh Nzewi, Eze - Innovation to me means doing the hard things first so that you can create a path or a system for whoever comes behind you. It means being a trailblazer so that whoever comes behind you has a much easier time.
Charlotte Odunlade-Akeju, Tremendoc Limited - it means a whole lot, especially in a fast-changing climate. Healthcare needs a lot of innovation to bridge the gap in deficiencies with healthcare infrastructure across Africa.
Eyitayo Ogunmola, Utiva - Innovation to me is the process of creating value by applying novel solutions to meaningful problems. It usually starts with dissolving the ‘choke point’ so that the team can flow quite easily and get better ways of doing things. Sometimes, it’s about adopting better technologies to get results out and sometimes it’s about building a new product that helps solve a problem.
Seun Runsewe, Biamo Money - I think that in most cases or in most instances where innovation happens, there are parameters within which you must create. Those parameters usually are problems or constraints or some regulation. So being able to solve around those rules and constraints - that’s the fun part, that’s where innovation happens - when you are able to think through getting something done with all of these conditions in mind. Hopefully, you’re able to deliver it elegantly.
Ikenna Nzewi, Releaf - Innovation is applying novel solutions to old problems. It is easy to confuse innovation and invention but innovation doesn’t always mean creating entirely new solutions. In our context, innovation is about finding effective and efficient ways to crack as many palm nuts as possible. With all the advancements that have happened over time until this point, it should be reasonable to expect that we will be able to crack nuts. However, our challenge has been around how we can make the process more consistently efficient and profitable for farmers, how to make our technology affordable and how to create a workable model based on the capital we have been able to raise.
Innovation for us means being able to build a start-up in Africa without restrictions. Technology helps to build what was previously termed impossible. Innovation can also mean transformation, not just buzzwords but the actual implementation of systems that can be used in commerce and governance.
From the above responses, it is clear that even though innovation has a general definition, it can be expressed in different ways depending on different factors such as geographical location, industry and personal choices, amongst others. In other words, innovation cannot be characterised by a singular definition as it is based on circumstance. However, there is one thing that remains - it is still about creating new things, new ways of doing things, or making complex processes simpler.
Tell us, what does innovation mean to you?