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Innovation

Can Africa’s tech start-up scene rise to the next level?

Ganesh Rasagam's picture
Pitch competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Johannesburg. Photo Credit: World Bank


In the decade since mobile money first sparked international interest in African innovation, hundreds of tech hubs have sprung up across the continent; global giants like GE have rushed in to build innovation centers; and the venture capital industry has steadily grown. Nevertheless, the continent’s tech scene continues to face challenges.

The rise of African innovation has inspired thousands of new start-ups, and this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. Existing acceleration programs, however, still leave growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment and scale their businesses across borders. With many of the continent’s acceleration programs lacking in quality, we hoped to introduce an innovative post-acceleration program, XL Africa.

After infoDev launched its mLabs in Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa in 2011, they introduced incubation programs that successfully supported the creation of over 100 start-ups that raised close to $15 million in investments and grant funding, and developed over 500 digital products or services. As these ecosystems and start-ups have matured, more needs to be done to improve the marketability of these companies to global and local investors.

Leveraging start-up ecosystems for development

Mutoni Karasanyi's picture


“What can we do today to prepare students for the labor force in 20 years?” the director general of Israel’s Ministry of Finance, Shai Babad, asked. At an Annual Meetings event last Friday, Babad was asked for his thoughts about successful government policies to enable start-up ecosystems. However, he answered the question with one of the many questions that policymakers continue to wrestle with in the new digital economy.

In recent years, many of the World Bank Group’s country partners have posed similar questions. As Trade & Competitiveness Director Klaus Tilmes commented, “Many clients are now less interested in our money, and more in our knowledge around best practices and effective incubator models. They’re asking ‘How can we create our own start-up ecosystems?’ So we are trying to become more systematic and leverage tools to expand our programs and build them into our lending projects.”

No state is more renowned for its success in building such ecosystems than Israel. The small country contains the highest number of start-ups outside of Silicon Valley and receives the most VC investment per capita. With a population of only 8 million, Israel has over 6,000 start-ups, and 1,000 new start-ups are launched every year. In 2016 alone, Israeli start-ups raised over $4.8 billion.

8 things we learned from running a challenge fund

Amal Ali's picture
Challenge funds can help harness technology for development – here, a team from the international Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows off an open source mobile weather station developed for the GFDRR/DFID Challenge Fund. © IWMI
Challenge funds can help harness technology for development – here, a team from the international Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows off an open source mobile weather station developed for the GFDRR/DFID Challenge Fund. © IWMI 

While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
 
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.

World Bank Group Youth Summit 2017: Technology and Innovation for Impact

Michael Christopher Haws's picture

2017 Youth Summit

We are excited to announce this year’s Youth Summit 2017: Technology & Innovation for Impact. As highlighted in the 2016 World Development Report “Digital Dividends”, we find ourselves amid the greatest information and communications revolution in human history and must take advantage of this rapid technological change to make the world more prosperous and inclusive. This year’s Summit will provide youth with a forum to voice their concerns, share their ideas and learn from one another while discussing the challenges and opportunities created by this technological shift.

Will automation kill South African jobs? No, say new studies

Marek Hanusch's picture
South Africa: in need of speeding-up economic productivity with more innovation. Photo: Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank


The 4th Industrial Revolution is here: driverless cars, 3-D printing, and Artificial Intelligence are the future. These innovations deliver the promise of better and more convenient lives to many. But they also disrupt the way in which we used to do things, including the way we work.

Can South Africa tap into its innovation potential to improve the lives of its citizens?

Gabriel Goddard's picture



Some people think innovation is only about gadgets, high-tech industries, and laboratories. But this is only the tip of the iceberg! The truth is that there are many types of innovation that can have a transformational impact on everyday people’s lives.

Innovation: A meaningless “catchword” or something more useful?

Alanna Simpson's picture
Can innovation be more than just a gimmick? © DFID
Can innovation be more than just a gimmick? © DFID

Challenges in development are growing at unprecedented rates, driven by complex human crises: refugees, rapid and unsustainable urbanization and climate change, failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, youth unemployment and disengagement, and stubbornly poor health and education outcomes, to name a few. Set against a backdrop of political and public pressure to do more with less – and see results faster than ever – even the most optimistic among us are likely to view the glass half empty. 

Three ways creative community spaces are transforming cities

Victor Mulas's picture

Start-ups are transforming cities. Entrepreneurs are inspiring creative communities and transforming the social and economic landscape of the neighborhoods where they cluster.
 
What drives entrepreneurs together and creates these communities? To answer this question, we looked at catalysts of entrepreneurial communities in cities around the world. The team found that a range of spaces — such as innovation hubs, incubators, maker spaces and fab labs — are at the core of these communities. They represent the main link between entrepreneurs and the broader economic and social fabric of the city. We call these “Creative Community Spaces” (CCS).
 
How are these CCS helping transform our cities? We compiled a set of case studies from around the world and analyzed their impact. There are more details in this report.


 

Corporate Innovation 2.0: How companies are creating new products and services to compete in the all-tech age

Victor Mulas's picture

Explaining the idea factory through Legos at the Strengthening Lebanon’s Mobile Internet Ecosystem workshops. Photo by Shamir Vasdev / World Bank
 



The corporate world is at the forefront of the tech-led transformation of the economy. The democratization of technology, whereby exponential cost reductions have allowed almost anyone to produce tech-based innovations, is disrupting core sectors of the economy. 
 
Technology disruption is not confined anymore to the digital world. Data analytics, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, robotics, sensorization, and an ever-evolving list of technology platforms have blurred the boundaries that once-protected physical ("brick and mortar") sectors, such as the hospitality, automobile, construction and manufacturing sectors.

Business as usual has not served companies in these sectors well. Traditional innovation models to create products and services do not match the pace and agility of competitive disruption from tech actors (e.g., large technology platforms with unbeatable access to data access and capital, such as Google or Amazon, and small and agile local startups). Thus, a new corporate innovation model, “Corporate Innovation 2.0,” is emerging.
 
The main characteristic of this new model is that it’s open by nature, as opposed to having a closed R&D process. Established companies tend to offer good structures for marketing, distribution, processes, scaling up products, etc., but, compared to start-ups, they often have a weakness in generating and rapidly applying creativity to develop new products and services.
 
Using open innovation techniques, corporations are trying to address this weakness by absorbing start-up innovation. We have seen three main types of mechanisms in this emerging model: corporate accelerators, competitions to generate new ideas, and co-creation with startups of new products and services. 

Supporting data for development: applications open for a new innovation fund

Haishan Fu's picture
Image credit: The Crowd and The Cloud


I’m pleased to announce that applications are now open for the second round of a new data innovation fund which was announced last month at the UN’s High Level Political Forum.

The fund will invest up to $2.5 million in Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development - ideas to improve the production, management and use of data in poor countries. This year the fund’s thematic areas are “Leave No One Behind” and the environment.

Details on eligibility, criteria and how to apply are here: bit.ly/wb-gpsdd-innovationfund-2017

The initiative is supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) with financing from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Korea and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland. DFID is the largest contributor to the TFSCB.

Supporting statistics for development

Here in the World Bank’s Development Data group, we’re looking forward to working with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) again following a successful pilot round of innovation funding last year. But you might be asking - why is the World Bank’s Data team helping to run a data innovation fund?


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