What you need to know:
- As the government digitises, it must acknowledge the growing importance of innovation in driving economic growth.
- Financial technology (fintech), for instance, has been a shining star in Kenya’s journey to a leader in innovation in Africa.
In the rapidly evolving global landscape, transformative innovation is a pivotal component of the economic agenda. The Kenyan economy is on a growth trajectory and, for industries and businesses to remain competitive on the international stage, they must innovate.
Innovation, however, extends beyond the realm of technology. It encompasses modern approaches to delivering superior products and services to global standards while enhancing convenience for consumers. As the government digitises, it must acknowledge the growing importance of innovation in driving economic growth, job creation and overall improvements in the quality of life.
Despite its potential, Africa lags behind in innovation as indicated by the Global Innovation Index 2021. But there are shining examples and pockets of excellence. For instance, last year, Kenya emerged the third-most innovative country in sub-Saharan Africa, behind South Africa and Mauritius.
Leader in innovation
The country has fostered a thriving ecosystem of innovation, boasting hubs and incubators such as the I Hub, Nailab and the Africa Technology and Innovative Accelerator (AFTIA), all dedicated to supporting startups and entrepreneurs. Its mobile technology sector plays a pivotal role in driving innovation, particularly in areas such as mobile banking, mobile health and mobile education.
These advancements are not only transforming the economic landscape but are also models for other African nations. Financial technology (fintech), for instance, has been a shining star in Kenya’s journey to a leader in innovation in Africa, what with its robust mobile money ecosystem and a burgeoning culture of online entrepreneurship!
The private sector must thus lead in investing in technology to transform industry, especially manufacturing. This is vital for innovators to remain competitive and achieve sustainable long-term growth. The government’s focus on country aggregation and industrial parks should align with the private sector’s dedication to realising these goals.
Fostering innovation requires a collaborative approach. Intra- and inter-county forums can catalyse innovation, driving economic growth by facilitating the development of products, services and business models through the exchange of knowledge, experiences and resources. They give innovators valuable insights, helping them to overcome challenges and drive their businesses forward.
SMEs must understand that innovation is not limited to technology. Value innovation, which involves reconfiguring business processes to deliver goods and services more affordably to consumers, is equally important. Innovation benefits society by reducing costs and enhancing convenience.
Kenya at a pivotal juncture in its journey to economic development and transformative innovation is the vehicle to drive it forward. Convergence of state initiatives, private sector commitment and a vibrant ecosystem of innovators places it in a prime position to lead Africa’s innovation charge.
Mr Nyangweso is the CEO of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI). [email protected]