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Building Africa’s Innovative Capacity: the Role of the AfDB

To reach a reasonable level of sustainable development, every society needs to integrate technologies in a carefully planned manner. As Africa pursues an agenda of transformation, there is an urgent need to bridge the knowledge and capacity gaps in many countries and sectors. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) called for a new global partnership for development using science and technology to address the problems facing the poor. The governments of many African countries recognized the need to reorient their national science, technology and innovation policies in order to serve developmental needs more effectively and coherently. A recent report jointly published by the United Nations Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, the African Union and the United Nations Development Programme points to noteworthy progress on technology indicators (UNECA, 2015) largely attributable to great advances made in the diffusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa.
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Innovation and sustainable development: Strengthening linkages in the ICT ecosystem in Africa

As Africa pursues the transformation agenda, there is urgent need to bridge the knowledge and capacity gap that exists in many countries and sectors. For any society to reach a reasonable level of sustainable development, a carefully planned integration of technologies would be required. To achieve this level of technological advancement, Africa needs to create innovative processes not only in the acquisition or development of new technologies, but also in the diffusion, so that it eventually finds social and economic application throughout the system.

By Foster Ofosu, Capacity Development Specialist at the African Development Bank Group

Whereas developed countries have exploited innovation milieus (system) to develop new technologies and improve on old ones, in the case of Africa the path to technological development has been one of acquisition, utilisation, adoption and (it is hoped) diffusion.  To attain the objective of both social and economic inclusiveness requires recognition of the role of knowledge in the achievement of the ultimate objective of poverty reduction and sustainable development. An understanding of the African socio-cultural environment and its application in the development agenda should have a far-reaching impact on African societies.

ICT developments in Africa over the last decade have opened doors to skills and capacity development, and are today providing the continent with the tools to leapfrog the traditional development trajectory by adopting appropriate technologies. On the back of this, collaborative efforts in the development of innovation at national level have been the subject of discussion among policymakers, entrepreneurs, academics, practitioners and researchers. Such discussions have led to a proliferation of models such as the innovation clusters and national systems of innovation. The focus of these models all work towards developing the innovative capacities of organisations within the national and, in some cases, regional concentrations. Although some of these models have found practical application in, for example, the explosion of innovation centres of excellence in ICT across Africa, the exact linkages between and among the differing actors begets a consensus and commonality of purpose.

Today there are well over 200 technology hubs across Africa aimed at promoting ‘technopreneurship’. One witnesses interesting stories about individuals and small startups making headlines for mobile applications. I commend all the young ‘technoprenurs’ putting Africa on the global innovation and technology map. But that is one side of the story. Successful innovations extend beyond creativity.

The second part of the story is the utilisation and adoption of these technologies even within the societies in which they are developed. There have been successful stories of commercialisation of technologies made in Africa. Notable among them is M-Pesa, which has revolutionised and expanded financial service delivery in Africa through the innovative use of mobile phones. In the healthcare sector, mPedigree, a Ghanaian tech firm, is making significant impact in the mobile anti-counterfeit drug system. We are yet to witness such large scale diffusion of technologies in the education and training sector.

Technological change is at the heart of social and economic transformation more so in the modern knowledge society. Unlike industrial technologies, the knowledge economy requires technologies as input and output of value creation. Developments in ICT should move beyond creativity to successful adoption and diffusion of Africa-made technologies throughout society. How can this be achieved?

For ICT to promote inclusive growth and sustainable development there is a need to move the landscape from stakeholders within nations and between nations working independently to a more collaborative system of innovations across sectors. Africa needs to explore new avenues to enhance technological innovations. Africa should create an environment that will facilitate local, national and international initiatives to develop new technologies for tackling some of the numerous socio-economic challenges. Sustainable development also requires sustainable technologies that are economically viable, socially needed, relevant and accepted.

Whereas the individual technopreneurs and the private sector should remain the main source of technological innovation,  it is important for African societies to develop a system of linkages at the level of policy (government), international organisations, universities, research institutions and civil society to create, apply and diffuse ICT for skills development and capacity building in Africa.

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Capacity Focus Magazine Vol.1 December 2012

In accordance with the Paris Declaration and Accra  Agenda for Action, the African Development Bank has made capacity  development an imperative for development in Africa. Capacity development is at the core of the activities of development stakeholders, including governments, development partners, the private sector as well as civil society.. The launch of the Capacity Focus is part of this effort to effectively share knowledge on capacity development in Africa. The aim is to bring capacity development issues that are relevant to Africa to a wider audience than heretofore, by connecting knowledge, learning, and innovation

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Fiduciary Clinic Workshop for Project Implementation in Kenya

The African Development Institute in collaboration with the Government of Kenya is organising a workshop on fiduciary issues in project implementation. The focus of the workshop is review project portfolio and help participants find relevant and feasible solutions to challenges of project implementation in Kenya.

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Formation Sur le Cadre Logique Axé sur les Résultats (CLAR)

Le cadre logique est un outil de planification et de gestion stratégique, employé pour  l’analyse, la conception, le suivi et l’évaluation des opérations. Enter Course

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Unleashing ICTs for innovations and youth entrepreneurship

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has embraced a new approach to development that puts innovation at the centre in the delivery of Bank projects at both the staff and client levels. The Bank sees its role as not only that of a financier and policy advisor but also as a promoter of knowledge and innovation.

By Foster N. Ofosu, Capacity Development Specialist. African Development Bank Group

This is implied in most areas of its operations, as indicated by the Ten Year Strategy of 2013 -2022, as well as its sector strategies.  Recently, the Bank has established a next-generation approach whose goal is to unleash a new wave of development and growth shared by all. The vision is captured in five objectives – the High 5 Goals: feeding Africa, lighting up Africa, industrializing Africa integrating Africa, and improving the quality of life in Africa.

Two observable demographic trends in Africa today are the rising proportion of youth and the high skill levels.  With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world – and it keeps growing rapidly and getting better educated. On the other side of the good story, African countries are at the forefront of global economic growth. So on one hand we have a growing educated population and growing economies. This, however, is as far as the good news goes. The problem in Africa may not be the lack of employment as measured by current global methodologies, but rather underemployment and lack of decent jobs.  Therefore, when discussing the creation of jobs for the youth, emphasis has to be put on decent, well-paying jobs.

The African Development Bank’s vision of expanding opportunities and unlocking potentials will only be achieved through a retooling of knowledge and skill-sets. Today’s youth have a responsibility for delivering on the High 5 Goals. To realize this vision, a plan for training, incubating financing, and implementation is needed. Youth engagement throughout the design and implementation process is critical for success.

To promote the empowerment of young Africans to engage in the development process, the  African Development Bank seeks to contribute to youth employment through entrepreneurship and capacity development on the Continent. The role of the AfDB in this process is envisaged as

  • helping identify the main micro and macro-level barriers affecting the successful deployment of ICT in capacity development
  • identifying ways in which ICT can help improve the delivery of capacity development for youth entrepreneurship and employment
  • creating an environment in which various stakeholders can collaborate to build innovative capacity for development

ICT should be recognized as both an input, and output of innovation. The emergence of technology hubs across the Continent, as well as the growing efforts by young African “techpreneurs” in developing mobile applications to solve health, education, financial inclusion, agriculture, and other socio-economic challenges all point to evidence of ICTs as outputs of the innovation and entrepreneurship processes.

I believe Africa not only needs to do more in utilizing ICT in the development of skills and entrepreneurs, but also has to manage ICT properly as an input to achieve the development goals as set by the AfDB. For example, techpreneurs should receive support that fosters the adoption and diffusion of mobile applications, while simultaneously allowing them to continue growing their ventures. Currently, there is growing evidence that although individual technpreneurs are winning awards and being celebrated outside the Continent, the adoption and diffusion of home-grown mobile applications need to be further supported and promoted. Another example is the use of ICT for developing entrepreneurial skills and supporting start-ups. Though ICT has been successfully deployed in formal education at various levels, there is still scope to expand the use of technologies to train young entrepreneurs.

To achieve the desired outcome of leveraging ICTS as both inputs and outputs, Africa needs to develop the capacity of its youth to innovate. Innovative capacity holds the key to unlocking Africa’s potential and achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development. The Innovative Capacity Approach includes a series of activities aimed at building the abilities of African youth to develop home-grown technological, marketing, processing, and organizational innovations for value addition.  The concept of innovative capacity creates avenues that enable individuals and organisations to

  • view things differently
  • apply new tools to existing processes
  • measure the potential for innovation in any organisation, nation, or region
  • consider and enhance collaboration and linkages among stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem in entrepreneurship and growth.

In the context of entrepreneurship, we need to build the capacity (and support) in various realms of innovation:

  • innovation in financing – the capacity for risk-mitigation measures and funding
  • technological innovation – capacity for innovation to engage technologists and entrepreneurs, those young men and women who are eager to tackle the challenges they face every day
  • market innovation – the capacity to develop innovative market-access solutions for young entrepreneurs and promote intra-African trade
  • innovation in system linkages – the capacity to create and strengthen linkages among government, universities and research institutions, the private sector, and civil society.

To address some of these issues, the AfDB has recently initiated the Innovation and Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme (iYes), which will back African youth in creating and growing innovative ventures and technologies. The capacity- building interventions include

  • innovation and start-up weekends
  • AfDB innovation fellowships – training, coaching and mentoring of winning ideas
  • new venture creation – incubation/excubation and other start-up support
  • growth-design capacity.

The iYes Programme makes use of distance and eLearning as part of the process, in addition to face-to-face interventions. Additionally, the programme is designed to address the innovative capacity gaps in the four areas and at the same time emphasise the element of growth to ensure the commercialisation and diffusion of home-grown technologies for the achievement of the High 5 Goals.

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Results-Based Logical Framework (RBFL)

The Results-Based Logical Framework (RBLF) is a strategic planning and management tool, used for the analysis, design, monitoring and evaluation of operations.

 

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E-Learning for Capacity Development in Africa: The E-Learning Initiative at the African Development Institute

Recognizing the advantages  that E-Learning can bring to the development and delivery of training within and outside  the Bank, the African Development
Institute committed to integrating ELearning into its capacity building activities within the Bank and in the Regional Member Countries. A well-designed and functional ELearning environment would richly enhance training in terms of width and breadth through improved efficiency and cost effectiveness.

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Enhancing Private Sector Development Impact – Training Materials

The project was launched to support objectives of the Regional Member Countries (RMCs) of reinforcing the impact of Bank operations on private sector development.

 

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Enhancing Private Sector Development Impact – Technical Tools

The project was launched to support objectives of the Regional Member Countries (RMCs) of reinforcing the impact of Bank operations on private sector development.

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