Africa in 10 years time. This was the thread of discussion on the final day of the World Economic Forum for Africa. World leaders and leaders of thought and innovation considered the question. Where can Africa be in 10 years time? How should it look?
Opinions centred, inevitably, around education, economic prosperity and employment for the youth of the continent.
But I have my own question. How will Africa look in 2022 if we do not enable the whole population to deploy its abundance of home-grown innovation? What will happen if women and men are not able to engage in the development of the continent by innovation, or by any other means?
Innovation needs implementation. And this needs trained and skilled people. It needs a trained, skilled ‘blue collar’ population. It needs to be inclusive. And most of all, it needs to centre on women.
But Africa is a rural continent. Seventy percent of the population live in rural areas and most often far from health care and services. It is vital that potential innovators and implementers are able to access the isolated. Of course, the much lauded mobile phone will have a big impact on this. But the real road to success lies in the development of more than just information flow.
To make a healthy and productive population, and to release their undoubted and much needed talent and endeavour, we need physical access.
So there is a need to look at roads. We need to look even more closely at vehicles. And, of course, there is no point in looking at vehicles without looking at maintenance.
The idea of maintenance is pretty new. It is an area of development rarely, if ever, mentioned. Maintenance means that things last. But maintenance means other things too. It means building skills and providing work. It involves employing technicians, training apprentices and establishing networks of logistics.
This is exactly the type of environment that needs to be encouraged for innovation and people to flourish.
It may seem surprising but I think this is a pretty major innovation. But even if it is not, my dream for Africa in 10 years is that the potential of the entire continent has been unlocked for a healthy, creative, productive population.
Author: Andrea Coleman, Riders for Health, United Kingdom;Social Entrepreneur, Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum.
Riders for Health works with health ministries and NGOs in Africa to maintain and manage more than 1,000 motorcycles and other vehicles. This enables healthcare workers to service remote areas. Riders’ innovative transport systems incorporate skills training for driving, daily maintenance procedures, fuelling supply-chain logistics for replacement parts, and interval preventative maintenance. The organization emphasizes building local capacity to manage and maintain its vehicles. A conservative estimate shows 11 million people receive regular, reliable healthcare because of Riders for Health. Read More