Africa in my opinion must not miss this unique opportunity she has today even though a part of me tends to argue that it may be rather late in the day. In a previous piece, I shared some of the giant strides a country like Germany is making to ensure that the quest to innovate does not take a back seat in their economy.
Yes, Africa may actually be behind the rest of the world when it comes to churning out innovative ideas, I must admit that some of her enterprising citizens are innovating despite very little support and difficult economic conditions. I say this because in the course of fulfilling my calling, I have come across cool ideas that have been brought to fruition by Africans.
Here are a few of these innovative ideas; a navigational aid tool for the visually impaired, designed by Khaled Shady, an Egyptian; Mellowcab, a high-tech electric Pedicab manufactured from recycled materials developed by a South African, Neil du Preez; the Cardiopad, a touch screen medical tablet that enables the carrying out of heart examinations such as ECG, developed by Arthur Zang, a Cameroonian and UMT, which stands for Urine Malaria Test, a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device that can diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes developed by Dr. Eddy Agbo, a Nigerian.
I could go on and on sharing unique solutions and ideas that have come out of Africa. However, for the purpose of this piece, I?d love to look at the different ways Africans can improve innovation across board.
Challenge the status quo
Innovation usually starts with someone who is tired of the old order or simply wants to do something differently. If there is no desire to challenge the status quo then it may be difficult to truly come up with something outstanding.
Yes, sometimes people innovate while having fun but that may not be the case for many Africans because fun comes after basic needs are met. Whatever be the case, we need to support those young minds working hard to challenge the status quo.
Think of small projects that can help
Some people think that being innovative means engaging in big projects that will make a larger impact. This is not necessarily so. There are many small projects that can help many individuals and businesses become more effective and efficient and this is exactly what innovation is all about. By handling, and being successful at managing smaller innovative projects, you will have the impetus to subsequently go for bigger ones. The maxim, start small and end big, is instructive here.
Never give up
I like the quote: ?Never say never.? So if you want to be innovative then this should be one of your comforting sentences and this is because the quest to innovate comes with a lot of sleepless night.
What usually dampens the spirit of many innovators is when the various tests result in failures and this is where they have to watch it. Do not give up. If Thomas Edison had given up after many failed attempts, we may never have the commercially viable electric bulb today that has been with us now since 1879.
Likewise, if Graham Bell had given up on working on inventing the telephone in the 1800?s, we may never have had the opportunity of having telephones today. Of course, many innovators have gone ahead to improve on the works of Thomas Edison and Graham Bell to what we now have today in the variety of electric bulbs and phones, respectively.
Collaborate, if necessary
The process of innovating sometimes necessitates your collaboration with one or more colleagues in order to make your project succeed. This is because, what you may be working on may require some input of skills that you do not possess but can be obtained from your colleagues. The synergy and fusion of the ideas brought forth by collaborating then produces the ultimate innovation.
A case in point is the collaboration between Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCoullum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes; all collaborated by bringing in their various skills to bear and came up with Facebook, which close to two billion people enjoy today. A problem shared is a problem solved. This is instructive here.
Be analytical in your approach
For you to be a successful innovator, you need to have an analytical mind-set and approach your work as such in order to turn your thoughts to reality. The process involves turning your thoughts into words, your words into pictures and your pictures into prototypes which can be moulded into reality. This makes it easier for people to see what you have in mind in terms of creativity. A prototype is the closest you can come to the real thing.
Research and Development
In a number of African countries, the term research and development is nothing but theory. It is mostly non-existent. The question is who is going to innovate without multiple trials and tests?
R&D is not achieved through beautiful or hopeful speeches; it is simply by investing the required resources and creating an enabling environment for innovators to master the art and act of failing. It is only through multiple failed experiences that we can give the world unique home grown solutions.
At the end of the day, whatever path we choose is a decision and we should blame no one but ourselves for the future results we get.