Speakers at the 2017 Transform Africa Summit have urged technology innovators and startups to associate themselves with broader development programmes across the continent in order to attract support from government and private financiers.
Research, including the latest Disrupt Africa African Tech Startups Funding Report, has shown an increase in funding being made available to African startups.
However, delegates at the Summit feel more funding can be secured if African technology innovators strive for closer association with development targets.
Claver Gatete, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in Rwanda said, “…the government provides resources to prioritise the IT sector, but we don’t look at the IT sector in isolation. We look at IT contributing to the entire GDP of other sectors. It has a big part in the financial services sector where we are working to achieve greater financial inclusion. IT also makes a big contribution to the industry side, as well as in health, education and even agriculture. What we see is that if we want to grow and grow fast, then we have no other choice. We cannot leave ICT and focus on something else or do the opposite. We look at ICT as complementary to everything that we are doing and we see it as a necessity. ICT is used as a tool that for work that we do on all government levels. We don’t always finance it separately, but that happens because it is part of all the work that we do.”
Venture capitalist and chairman of Kaenat, Yariv Cohen, says attracting finance from the public sector by finding ways to solve important national or continental goals can be rewarding.
“In many economies government spending is a big part of the economy. Companies offering innovative solutions that can address national challenges often get more support. Governments allow local startups easier access to innovate alongside the needs of the government. The public sector can provide innovators and startups with the opportunity to deal with complex problems and come up with solutions. It can be a complicated process at first but it can reap a lot of rewards in the future.”
Cohen adds that government support for startups and innovators can serve as a building block towards future investment by the private sector.
“The government is not about investment as that is often a role of the private sector. The government can provide support in the early states like making it possible for one to compete for a tender even if you don’t have a track record but your solution is better. Government’s job is to make sure that you are supported and that there is a conducive environment which will lead to investment.”
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said, “Technology is a powerful framework for bringing diverse stakeholders together to define challenges and find solutions, as we see in this room. Transforming Africa, after all, means transforming Africans by enabling a practical mindset of problem-solving and discovery,
The focus on people is the starting point around which we can build everything else, including the infrastructure and systems required. This goal can only be achieved by all actors working together, with the private sector taking the lead and governments fostering a conducive environment for innovation and investment.”
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