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June 24, 2008

Action Oriented

As we prepare the results from the Security and Society focus area, and gear up for the Water and Oceans focus area in September, it’s a good time to catch up on some news from GIOs past.

We have some exciting news to share with the GIO community coming out of Africa: IBM opened an African Innovation Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The project is a direct result of the Global Innovation Outlook sessions on economic enablement in Africa, held in 2007. It’s an advanced computing facility that will nurture IT skills and help encourage entrepreneurialism in the area. And it’s the first of its kind anywhere in Africa.

Here’s what Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, had to say about the new center: “We are highly energized by IBM’s investment because it directly responds to our call for increased private sector investment into sustainable initiatives that advance priority technical skills.”

This is a message that the GIO heard loud and clear, from the moment we set foot in Nairobi, until the day we left Cape Town months later. Everywhere we went, students and adults alike were calling for more private sector engagement in education and skills development. Here is a link to the first blog we wrote about this need back in June of 2007. I can’t help but think that the simple plea of young Athman Fadhili, then an MBA student at the University of Nairobi, for the private sector to collaborate with African universities, led to this innovation center.

That’s not all it led to. Makocha Minds, the mentoring program that was literally started up days after the GIO met with students in Nairobi, has now reached critical mass. It has more than 250 mentors working with students from 24 different African universities. The mentors come from IBM, Coca-Cola, Cisco, FedEx and Symantec.

Sometimes the notion of collaborative innovation for the benefit of society can be met with withering cynicism. And sometimes it feels like the GIO is fighting an uphill battle. But sometimes we get to see positive change happen right before our eyes. This is a perfect example of that, and more than enough fuel to feed the innovative fire.

June 24, 2008 in Africa | Permalink


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