The Accra International Conference Centre was decked out in a splash of colour with the flags of the sub-Saharan African countries as the British Council’s Innovation for African Universities (IAU), took the showcase of its grant cycle 1 results to Ghana.
The showcase featured an exhibition of some of the 35 projects that evolved out of the IAU Programme pilot executed in 4 countries (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa).
This included a drone-race zone to demonstrate one of the project’s (Integrated Aerial Systems) use of drones to disperse fertilizers efficiently on farms in South Africa; the Kenten hospitality area was a display of local Ghanaian food and drinks to highlight its objective of driving food security.
The opening ceremony’s “Trooping of colour”, featured the flags and cultural performances of the 4 pilot countries. There were also opening addresses by Dr Abu Sakara Executive Chairman, Sakfos Holdings, Accra Ghana, an expert in food security, farming systems, soil science, technology innovation and advisory services.
He gave a passionate rallying call for more to be done to transform the youth population growth situation into comparative advantage describing the resilience and ambitions of the continent’s young population as significant assets.
He was followed by Mr. Joe Mensah, who is Senior Vice President and Head of Ghana Business Unit, Kosmos Energy
Ghana he is also Board Chairman, Kosmos Innovation Centre, (KIC) he shared a few thoughts on what the KIC is doing and how it dovetails into the IAU’s objectives of driving innovation.
The day was the split into 2 panel sessions. The first session reflected on the background, design, lessons learned and journey so far of the IAU programme in the 4 pilot countries.
It was an interactive discussion between Adetomi Soyinka, Regional Director Higher Education Programmes, British Council sub-Sahara Africa; Neil Marshall Development Director of Changeschool who is presently leading the IAU’s continent wide programme for the British Council; and Megan Franklin, co-founder of M&ESURE Research and Evaluation, the monitoring and evaluation consultancy based in Cape Town, South Africa assigned to oversee the IAU programme implementation.
Panel 1 conversations moved to a think-tank on innovation projects on the continent to observe lessons and confluence points with pertinent inputs from Dr Victor Konde of the Alliance of Entrepreneurial Universities in Africa (AEU) initiative United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Ms. Rose Dodd Director at The Education Collaborative Ashesi University Ghana and Dr. Norah Clarke, Director Entrepreneurial Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Programme, Universities South Africa.
This panel was moderated by Mr Ben Barth, Founder & Managing Partner Axcero Advisors, who deftly navigated the discussions to draw out key observations that elicited a lively debate with the audience.
The 2nd panel session tagged “Aligning Industry and Universities for Job Creation” explored the so-what. The panel unpacked the universal question – after all is said and done, are graduates really ready for the workplace?
The discussion turned the spotlight on the industries that are the biggest employers of graduates into the formal pathway. Sharing views from the finance and banking sector was Adoma Peprah Country Manager VISA Ghana; views from the agribusiness sector was championed by Dr. Abu Sakara Executive Chairman of Sakfos Holdings; on the digital world, we had views from Ola Williams, Country Director for Microsoft Nigeria and Ghana; for the digital media, advertising and creative sector was Akua Nartey who is Regional Managing Director of Ogilvy Ghana.
The session’s conversation was further boosted by Mr Alex Mould, former CEO of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) who moderated the power-packed panel giving his own oil & gas industry experience. This panel acknowledged that the IAU programme as a vital tool that will help to bridge the gap between coordinated innovation ecosystems and international funders looking to support innovation development for impact at scale.
The showcase event celebrated the IAU projects with an Award Ceremony that was based on public votes cast by the attending audience for the most innovative of the 35 IAU programme projects.
The award was won by the Nigerian project, U-coHub Ideation Platform, in second place was Kenya’s Youth Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme (YEAP); third place went to Ghana’s Graduate Employability within the Higher Education Framework and in 4th place was South Africa’s Supporting Youth Social Entrepreneurship (SYSE). The award plaque was presented by British Council’s Regional Director for Higher Education Programmes in sub-Sahara Africa, Adetomi Soyinka.
The event was concluded with presentations by the exhibiting projects at the event.