Innovation key to building sustainable and equitable growth in Africa
9/11/2012 9:01:24 PM -
When the Rockefeller Foundation announced the finalists of our global Innovation Challenge, four of the eight finalists were based in Africa - a powerful testament to the quality of innovation emerging from a continent where all too often, necessity is the mother of invention. The Challenge showcased the potential impact innovations targeted at the grassroots can have on unleashing the full potential of people and systems across various sectors including health and agriculture.
The eight Innovation Challenge finalists were chosen from almost 2,000 entrants from around the world, who submitted proposals centered on specific topics. Through ideas ranging from a reality radio program series featuring a competitive quest for young people to create the 'best new farm' to an online to a phone-based platform for improving water and sanitation in slums, we are seeing focused, locally relevant approaches and ideas surface to meet the world's most dynamic needs and development challenges.
Innovation lies at the very core of the Rockefeller Foundation's DNA; it is our overarching principle and guides the way we approach the issue areas that we prioritise. As a result, we have embraced a flexible and responsive model that values new approaches to more help people tap into globalization's benefits and strengthen resilience to risks. Innovation has characterised the way we think and act from our very inception. When John D. Rockefeller put in place a structure to systemize giving in order to achieve human progress, he inspired a new approach to solving complex social challenges with private resources.
Nearly 100 years later, the Rockefeller Foundation continues to promote and celebrate innovation. The Rockefeller Foundation's Africa Regional Office plays a critical role in identifying and supporting such pioneering initiatives through our grantee network across the continent. Indeed we believe innovation is often best enabled through partnerships by sharing learning and encouraging efficiency, which can result in the development of compelling solutions in a shorter timeframe. This sense of urgency is critical; as celebrated economist and thought leader Oby Ezekwesili argued in our recent grantee convening in Nairobi 'the poor have waited too long'.
There is cause for optimism though; exciting breakthroughs are being made in tackling some of Africa's most pressing problems, including food security and its linkages with climate change. Given how central agriculture is to the majority of Africa's rural communities, any gains made will have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of many millions of citizens. The Rockefeller Foundation is supporting more climate resilience practices to help smallholder farmers respond to climate variability and change, giving current investments in improving African agriculture a greater impact over the long term. And through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Foundation continues to support agricultural innovations in food production, processing and marketing in Africa.
This is where we focus and this is where we believe Africa is strongest. We were honored to host our grantees and partners at the 2012 grantee convening in Nairobi, where participants had the opportunity to share and surface new innovations addressing critical local development challenges. I was truly inspired to learn of the outstanding work being delivered in impact sourcing, health, food security and climate change. In 2013 the Rockefeller Foundation celebrates our centennial we are committed to fostering innovation for the next hundred years. Together with our partners, we will ensure that the next era of the Rockefeller Foundation's engagement in Africa will promote, enable and celebrate Africa's extraordinary capacity for world class innovation. I believe it will generate real impact and open up unprecedented opportunities that will astound us all.
Dr. Judith Rodin is President of the Rockefeller Foundation