In October 2020, KTN Global Alliance Africa hosted a three week event series designed to respond to the impact of Covid-19 and support resilience and recovery in African innovation ecosystems.

Posted on: 18/11/2020

The KTN Global Alliance Africa team would like to thank all Speakers, Partners, Panelists, Organisers and Participants in supporting our first event series called ‘Global Ideas Exchange: Enhancing Innovative Resilience in Africa’. The aim of each session was to encourage sharing and learning to showcase the latest ideas and best practice in innovation. Here is a round up of this exciting new event series which took place in October 2020.

The recordings from all open sessions are available here.

This inaugural event series took place over three weeks in October 2020. The first week was dedicated to closed sessions and focussed on a briefing workshop which presented KTN’s analysis and overview of different country responses to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Government and Public Sector participants set the scene for the remainder of the first week, providing feedback which shaped up the following week’s activities. KTN Global Alliance Africa partnered with AfriLabsCo-Creation Hub, South African Technology and Innovation Agency, iHub and Tshimologong who we thank for their support throughout.

KTN held a Global Ideas Exchange Masterclass at AfriLabs’ Annual Gathering 2020 which took place on the first day of the event series. We shared insights into the UK’s international investment ecosystem and highlighted UK international funding opportunities and how to apply for them. This annual event gave innovators the unique chance to share conversation and ideas, and to build partnerships.

Detailed below are the sessions which involved several different mechanisms for networking, collaboration and Q&A opportunities. All open sessions were recorded and available to view via the links below.

Innovation Funding

The aims of this session were: (1) to allow public funders to highlight their successes, discuss challenges, and share lessons learned, and (2) to generate new insights into how collaboration across the ecosystem could help channel resources more effectively to fill funding gaps in meeting Covid-19 response and recovery challenges. It was apparent during discussions that there was a distinct lack of funding and support for innovators. The importance of reaching networks was highlighted and to pull on existing partnerships and strengthen connections. All speakers mentioned the importance of networks as a key resource, and that there needed to be a greater flexibility in funding models, calls and mechanisms.

With thanks to Panelists Janet Geddes, Deputy Director of Global at Innovate UK, Senisha Moonsamy, Head of Innovation Skills & Enterprise Development at TIA and Magdalena Banasiak, Senior Technology and Innovation Adviser at FCDO.

Innovation Networks

This session was designed to respond to the following challenges, as raised through KTN’s rapid analysis of the ecosystem responses to Covid-19 in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa:

  • Identifying partners for innovation collaboration, investment, consultation
  • Knowing where to access resources, including knowledge, data and facilities
  • Working in silos and uncoordinated communities of practice

With these structural gaps all rooted in the effectiveness of innovation networks, the aim of this session was to share and generate insights into how we can break down silos, increase awareness of each other’s work, and support more coordinated response mechanisms across the ecosystem.

With thanks to Panelists Jon Kingsbury, Director of Strategic Development at KTN
Mike Klein, Director at IMC, COVIDaction, Lesley Donna-Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Hub, Sheena Raikundalia, Director of the UK-Kenya Tech Hub, Toto Matshediso, Deputy Director of Strategic Partnerships at the South African Department.

Value Chain Disruption

National lockdowns and social distancing measures have caused major disruption to business operations and value chains across many critical sectors, including health, agriculture, and logistics. Disruption in flights and other transport for example, have created barriers to sourcing materials and produce. The aim of this session was to allow participants to share success stories, discuss challenges, and generate new insights into how inclusive, cross-ecosystem collaboration can help mitigate the negative socio-economic impacts that disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations, who are already facing the greatest risks.

With thanks to Panelists Fidel Makatia, Lead Inventor of the TibaVentR Ventilator produced at Kenyatta University, Yoanna “Pepper” Chikezie, CEO at the Assembly Hub, Ben Oldfrey, Research Fellow at UCL working on FCDO COVIDaction programme.

Future Shaping

In wrapping up the first week of closed sessions for Global Ideas Exchange, this session assessed key takeaways from earlier discussions throughout the week and offered participants a platform to reflect together on the means, approaches and desired outcomes for collaboration going forward. Building stronger communities and networks were an important factor for this session

With thanks to Panelists Daan Du Toit, Deputy Director at the South African Department for Science and Innovation, Elba Fuster Figaroa, Technical Expert for Smart Cities and Digitalisation at UNDP, Sonia Nour, Program Advisor – International and Eureka at NRC-IRAP Canada, Susie Kitchens, Deputy Director at Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Multilateral Innovation Funding

Access to Funding was highlighted as a key challenge for innovators and entrepreneurs, financial pressure on governments has also increased as they work to meet the range of social, economic, and health related challenges, with reduced internal budgets and increased operating costs. In this session panelists discussed the potential benefits and risks of bi- and multilateral programmes to fund African innovation. Speakers identified that Covid-19 was a potential opportunity for innovators to prove value, and that we need to ensure funding reaches the people that need it the most.

With thanks to Panelists Lalit Kumar, Global Innovation Fund, Marjolijn Wilmink, Human Development Innovation Fund, Victor Konde, UNECA.

Blended Finance Options for Innovation

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be achieved with blended finance options. Sub Saharan Africa is a large focus for these innovative solutions. This session addressed the potential of blended finance solutions for innovation in terms of the challenges they seek to address, their ability to redistribute resources across the investment pipeline, the mechanisms needed to them. There are large opportunities to support incubators and accelerators with blended finance instruments.

With thanks to Panelists Frank Aswani, CEO, AVPA, Tamara Giltsoff – Director, Assistive Technology (AT) Impact Fund, Wadé Owojori, Market Engagement Director and Head of Ecosystem Accelerator, GSMA, Shruti Chandrasekhar, Head of Startup Catalyst and SME Ventures, IFC.

Open Innovation

Covid-19 has heightened the need for collaborative innovation to drive impact and maximise the value of limited available resources. This session explored new ways to break down silos, bridge information gaps and leverage targeted collaboration to support more inclusive and effective development and deployment of innovative solutions.

With thanks to Panelists Makena Ireri, Manager at CLASP, George Kosimbei, Director of Innovation Incubation and University Industry Linkages at Kenyatta University.

Informal Innovation

With conflicting objectives and other barriers undermining meaningful connections, engaging with the informal sector has known challenges. This session unpacked those challenges in the context of Covid-19, and fostered discussion on how to support inclusive approaches to transforming value chains.

With thanks to Panelists Pierre Coetzer, Founder, Reciprocity South Africa, Oumar Sylla – Acting Director for the Regional Office for Africa at UN-HABITAT, Ben Oldfrey, Research Fellow at UCL working on FCDO COVIDaction programme.

Multiscalar Linkages

Building on ideas developed over the course of the week, this panel focussed on the importance of strengthening multi-scalar linkages (communication channels) in building more resilient innovation ecosystems.

With thanks to Panelists Takunda Chingonzo, Board Member at AfriLabs, Kamal Bhattacharya, Data Scientist at IUBH University of Applied Sciences, and Bosun Tijani, Founder and CEO of Co-Creation Hub, Nigeria.

The Summit

As the Summit’s keynote speaker, Alicia Greated, CEO at KTN spoke to key series themes like the importance of innovation networks and international collaboration, and the shift toward evidence-based policy-making as science and technology partnerships are increasingly embedded within modern international relations. She also reiterated and re-emphasised KTN’s commitment to holistic approaches to inclusive innovation and sustainable development through its mission to create diverse connections that drive positive change.

About KTN Global Alliance Africa

KTN Global Alliance Africa is a six-year project co-funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), and with the strategic partnership of Innovate UK to drive networking activities that can help foster long-lasting, strategic partnerships between Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, the UK and across sub-Saharan Africa.

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This Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa 6-year (2019-2025) project funded by UK International Development aims to build new and stronger UK-African partnerships to maximise the creation of inclusive market access, funding and investment opportunities through innovation knowledge transfer between the UK, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.


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