African Influencers For Development 

Open Letter

The Power of Supporting African Innovation

By African Influencers for Development


Inarguably, Africa has a proud history of ingenious innovations and creativity. These include the 1716 smallpox vaccination invention in Boston, U.S.A by Onesimus, then a slave from West Africa; the San’s Hoodia plant appropriated as a cure for obesity; the complex Marakwet and Engaruka escarpment Furrow Irrigation system in Kenya and Tanzania; and, not forgetting, Egypt’s rare art of embalming and papyrus writing.

We neither celebrate enough, nor invest sufficiently in bringing these innovations to market. COVID-19 is challenging us in new ways and demanding more from the ingenuity and enterprise we know reside across the continent. One thing is certain: Africa cannot go “back to normal.” Normal was the problem. Things must change and change quickly. In Africa, COVID 19 is teaching us that we must change our attitudes, find home-grown solutions, and support their growth.

This month, UNDP’s Africa bureau is unveiling “Africa Innovates,” a forward-leaning magazine that celebrates ground-breaking work by young African innovators to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The innovators, who are mainly the youth, are sending a clear message: that they are up to the challenge. The magazine showcases innovations in robotics, artificial intelligence, engineering, coding, information technology and medical technology, etc.

Our continent can and is providing ideas, innovations and solutions that are already ably mitigating the effects of a global pandemic that is confounding and devastating even some of the most advanced countries in the world. These innovations confirm what we have believed in individually and collectively – a resounding statement that Africa and Africans can!

However, these innovators still face herculean challenges related to market access, supply chain integration, mentoring and access to finance. These hurdles must be overcome if we are to take their innovations to the next level.  Additionally, African countries must do away with policies that have stifled creativity and entrepreneurship for generations. Africa’s emerging innovators deserve purposeful enabling environments that believe in these young people – investing in them with confidence, promoting them with pride and supporting them consistently. This is what will unlock sustainable development and reduce persistent inequalities across the continent.

As business and industry leaders, and as the African Influencers for Development who have committed to changing the development prospects of our continent for demonstrable impactful results, we will lend our ears, hearts and action, to this call.

Collectively, we can and should take advantage of this groundswell of resourceful, COVID 19 -inspired African strokes of genius, and respond with actions and solutions that help upscale Africa’s abundant innovation and amplify and sustainably empower our youth.

We may all come from different backgrounds and sectors essential to Africa’s diverse social and economic developmental needs, but we have one thing in common – our passion to drive and influence positive change in our beloved motherland.  We can, must and will do our part.

But we cannot do this alone.  

African governments and friends in the private sector must join us in pooling the resources and creating the space needed for our young men and women to thrive in these teeming wells of innovation.

We encourage you to advocate for and support young African innovators and SMEs by including them at the heart of policy and decision-making processes and finding clear solutions to the bottlenecks that hamper their growth.

We call on leaders of the African Union, Presidents, Ministers, Policy makers and Africans to:

  1.   Re-commit to Africa’s youth.
  2.   Promote the creation of financing pools and regulatory frameworks that support these innovations.
  3.   Champion and support systems and processes to promote action and scalability of innovative ideas.
  4.   Foster enabling taxation regimes that incentivize Africa’s innovations.
  5.   Encourage and promote markets for the ideas and creations of these innovations within national and regional contexts.
  6.   Grow and create more spaces for innovations to scale-including with support of a technical knowledge, business advisory and market       support services nature.
  7.   Celebrate and recognize them.
  8.   Adapt micro and micro economic policies that send a clear message of support for innovation and scale to market.
  9.   Reflect on the present realities and prospects of start-ups, and champion the evolution of a more enabling environment, in particular incubation initiatives.
  10.   Promote the buying of Made in Africa as much as possible and redouble efforts to build-up Africa.


Signed by:

  • Benedict Oramah, President, Afreximbank
  • Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director, Ladol, Nigeria
  • Eleni Gabre-Madhin, Chief Happiness Officer, blueMoon & former CEO, Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, Ethiopia
  • James Mwangi, Group MD & CEO, Equity Bank, Kenya
  • Edem Adzogenu, Co-founder of AfroChampions, Ghana
  • Samaila Zubairu, President & CEO, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC)
  • Samba Bathily, Founder and Chairman, ADS, Mali
  • Admassu Tadesse, President, and CEO, Trade Development Bank (TDB), Ethiopia
  • Tigui Camara, Founder and CEO, Tigui Holdings, Guinea –
  • Temitope Shonubi, Co-founder & Executive Director, Sahara Group, Nigeria
  • Kunle Adeyemi, Founder, NLE Architects, Nigeria
  • Njideka U. Harry, Founder & CEO, Youth for Technology, Nigeria
  • Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder, soleRebels, Ethiopia
  • Rob Shuter, Former President, MTN, South Africa
  • Temie Giwa-Tubosun, CEO, Lifebank, Nigeria







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