Innovation is the driving force behind economic growth and development in many countries, and Ghana is no exception. As such, there is a need to create enabling policies that promote innovation and facilitate its growth.
On 24th April 2023, stakeholders in the Ghanaian innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem were brought together for a policy dialogue event under the theme “Ghana Policy Dialogue: Promoting An Enabling Innovation Space.” This event was organized by hapaSpace Innovation Hub, under the AfriConEU project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme. One of the expected outcomes of the project is a report with policy recommendations to improve the digital innovation ecosystems in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
In line with the aforementioned outcome, the online event brought together participants from across Africa and Europe providing a platform for stakeholders from various sectors, including academia, policymakers, local DIHs, startups and other European policy experts, to discuss the creation of an enabling environment for innovation in Ghana. The event provided a platform for stakeholders to exchange ideas and strategies on policy to drive innovation in Ghana and Africa. Here are some key takes away from the event.
The event started with an introduction by Promise from Buni Hub, Tanzania, a member of the AfriConEU consortium; she provided an overview of the AfriConEU Project. During her presentation, she highlighted the upcoming boot camps that will take place in four African countries, as well as the capitalization event scheduled to be held in Europe later this year.
After Promise’s introduction, Mr. Gideon Brefo, the CEO of hapaSpace, took the stage and provided a summary of the state of play report. This research was conducted in four African ecosystems to draft recommendations, aimed at providing evidence-based policy recommendations. Mr. Brefo’s presentation established the context for the discussions that followed.
Mr Nashiru Salifu, Deputy Director, Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) gave a 20 minutes presentation on Enabling Policies and the Innovation Space in Ghana. He began his presentation with the systematic foundation of STI (Science, Technology and Innovation). He gave a quote by former US president Barack Obama which goes like this ”We know that the nation that goes all in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America can not surrender” Mr. Nashiru touched on The era of Frontier Technology, the Triple Helix Model in the Ghanaian context, (according to him there must always be a direction of innovation), In the end, he compared statistics of what is happening in Ghana to the world, Ghana’s Innovation policy Direction and some key policies like the Ghana STI policy, Technology Transfer Regulations, STEM and TVET policy of Government amongst others, that clearly shows the intent of Ghana to drive the economy towards Science Technology and Innovation.
Mr. Olufemi Adewumi, the Programs Director at MEST, delved into the European enabling policies for African Startups. According to Mr Femi, the African Market is a black box to the Western world, they do not have much information about the continent’s market therefore they view it as high risk so we need to create inroads for foreign investors to experience the markets for themselves. He also mentioned that skills development, which is rapidly enhanced learning and skills is very important. Mr. Femi ended by saying “The future is bright”.
The event proceeded with a dynamic two-part panel discussion. The first panel comprised government officials and policymakers in the persons of Mr. Franklin Owusu Karikari, Director of Business Support and Innovation Commercialization at NEIP Which is a government flagship policy initiative, Mr. Nashiru Salifu, Deputy Director for Science, Technology and Innovation at MESTI, and Mr. Sherif Ghali, the CEO of the Ghana Chambers of Young Entrepreneurs, co-lead, Ghana startup and Innovation bill technical working committee.
The second panel consisted of two hub leaders and a startup. The persons of Miss Naomi Kokuro, a marketing expert and CEO of Kaya App Grocery, Mr. Samuel Aboagye, team lead at Whizzy Academy and Mr George Antwi Boasiako from Agrico Hub also Director of Finance, Ghana Hubs Network. This was a deliberate attempt to get the perspective of both policymakers and those who are directly affected by policies: startups and hub leaders.
The panel discussions highlighted different perspectives. While policymakers emphasized that policies are already in place and more are being developed, hub leaders and startups expressed their concern that they do not perceive the impact of these policies on their work.
According to hub leaders, there is little education about policies in Ghana. Leaders of the innovation spaces are not even aware of the existing policies in order to use them to support startups. There needs to be a lot of advocacy. For instance, during the call, hub leaders and startups were unsure whether the tax exemption policy is still in place for startups in Ghana. However, according to the Director of Operations of the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, The Tax Exemption From the Tax Amendment Act is working. It is for start-up Entrepreneurs between 18-35 yrs. That was key information for all startups present.
George indicated that startups in the ecosystem are usually not investor ready even though they have received much business development training. Some investment opportunities come with age restrictions (maximum of 35). Meanwhile, most entrepreneurs who have found their direction are out of the age bracket. Miss Kokuro stated. Hence, they must bring younger entrepreneurs as partners to represent them. The Ghana Policy Dialogue event was a huge success; the insights gained from this event can help shape policy, promote collaboration, and drive growth in the Ghanaian and African innovation ecosystem.
Please visit the hapaspace youtube channel to enjoy the full event titled AfriConEU Policy Roundtable Dialogue.
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