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AfriLabs’ annual summit draws tech titans to Rwanda

AfriLabs

For eight consecutive years, AfriLabs has served as an avenue for members of the innovation community to leverage their vast network of African technology and innovation ecosystem through Its Annual Gathering.

As a testament to AfriLabs’ effort to reshape the future of African innovation, The AfriLabs Annual Gathering 2023 was hosted by Rwanda’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Hon. Paula Ingabire.

The 2023 AfriLabs Annual Gathering that took place in Kigali Rwanda on the 11th – 13th of October was themed ‘Accelerating Africa’s digital economy; by the strength of our community.’

This event presented an opportunity for stakeholders across different sectors to come together under one roof, not only to exchange knowledge but also to witness first-hand how collective action can help shape this continent’s future into a fully digitized Africa by 2030.

The event provided attendees with access to investor networks and key stakeholder groups which include high-level startups, academics, media partners, developmental organizations, and titans of the industry. This is why the AfriLabs Annual gathering remains the largest convention for brilliant African innovation hub leaders and ecosystem builders in the continent.

As the theme implies, every activity during the event was built to foster Africa’s digital economy with the presentations of different tracks and panel discussions that serve as a reminder to the tech ecosystem in African countries to prioritize creating an enabling environment for startups to thrive.

Anna Ekeledo, AfriLabs Executive Director confirms that Africa’s tech ecosystem is stronger than ever before and ready to give innovation all it takes in her welcome speech “Our youthful and dynamic population is eager to seize the power of technology and innovation to overcome challenges and create opportunities in Africa.

“For the 8th edition of the Annual Gathering, AfriLabs promised High-level panel discussions and dialogue, Masterclasses by subject matter industry experts, and networking opportunities. Let us take a journey into how these were achieved.

“We will be taking you through how critical industry topics were addressed during the tracks and sessions.

Read also: Social expectations, stereotypes discourage women from entering male-dominated fields – Executive Director AfriLabs

The Investor track of the AfriLabs Annual Gathering in Kigali, Rwanda, explored the funding gaps in the African technology and innovation ecosystem and innovative solutions required to bridge these gaps.”

The track featured a number of panel sessions on topics such as Investing in Disruption: The Power of Industrial Digitalization, Unlocking Global Markets: The Role of Capital in Innovation, Fueling Success: The Power of Acceleration Programs and Mentorship in Startup Ecosystems, and other fireside conversations.

These subjects were addressed by Nelly Mukazayire – Deputy CEO Rwanda Development Board, Esther Kunda, Director General, Innovation & Emerging Technologies, Ministry of ICT and Innovation, Government of Rwanda and other industry leaders. A major takeaway from this track is the importance of emphasising financial literacy, building a product that addresses the market we operate in, and the ability to see failure as a learning curve.

The Climate Change and Adaptation track brought together experts and innovators such as Eric Tambo, Associate Academic Officer at UNU-EHS, Germany, Martin Karanja, Director, GSMA Innovation Fund, Kenya, Sieka Gatabaki, Program Director, Mercy Corps, Kenya, Etta Ayuk, CEO Mountain Hub, Cameroon, Mr. Bankole Oloruntoba, NCIC – Nigeria and Sonia Umulinga, CEO, Plasticraft Ltd, Rwanda, to explore sustainable approaches to climate action by accelerating support for climate change adaptation across the continent.

There was also a track dedicated to Creatives and Entertainers, this track was graced by M.I Abaga, Artist/ Founder and CEO, Tasck, Nigeria, Steve Tchoumba, Executive Director, ActivSpaces Cameroon, and other industry leaders. The Creativity & Technology Intersection Track at AfriLabs Annual Gathering 2023 showcased cross-sector collaborations and innovative initiatives that leverage technology for expression and business development, and it showcased the potential of technology in revolutionizing the various creative industries in Africa.

A series of enlightening panel sessions took place, each shedding light on the potential of technology to revolutionize diverse creative industries on the continent. The sessions included “Harmonizing the Future: the Tech-Powered African Music Revolution,” “Gaming Renaissance in Africa: Powering Creativity and Entrepreneurship,” and “Indigenous Art in the Digital Age,” among others.

The Gender Inclusion track highlighted the importance of gender diversity and equity within the tech and entrepreneurship sectors.

The Afrilabs Annual Gathering 2023 held several panel sessions and a fireside chat that aimed to address the gender gap in the startup ecosystem in Africa. The sessions encouraged Accelerating Women in Leadership, Overcoming Barriers to Inclusion in Public and Private Sector, Innovating Pathways to Bridging the Gender gap, Addressing the Gender Funding Gap in Africa: Myths, Realities, and Solutions, and Designing for All: Inclusive Innovation and Universal Accessibility.

These power-packed topics were dissected by Jennifer Okeke-Ojiudu – Senior Ecosystem Engagements Manager, AfriLabs (Moderator), Sonnia Agu, CEO, SA Consulting, Nigeria, Berna Rusagara, Executive Director, Women for Women, Rwanda and other incredible speakers.

The Hub Solutions & Sustainability track examined how African technology and innovation hubs can offer quality support to startups while remaining profitable. The Afrilabs Annual Gathering 2023 featured several sessions and workshops that focused on hub solutions, sustainability and management, including a panel session on Crowdsourcing Sustainable Business Models, Hub in a Box concept, a panel session on how the Innovation Ecosystem can benefit from Open Innovation Approaches followed by the Launch and Introduction of the Open Innovation Toolkit by Make-IT in Africa and Veridian. These panel sessions and workshops provided insights into how hubs can design their business models and overcome challenges to financial sustainability.

Read also: AfriLabs partner ABAN to launch Catalytic Africa, co-matching fund for startups

The Policy and Data-Driven Africa track explored policy-related challenges and data-driven decision-making and governance strategies for inclusive growth in Africa. It also featured a ministerial roundtable focused on policy harmonization.

The keynote speaker was Lacina Kone, CEO and Director General of Smart Africa, a pan-African initiative that aims to transform Africa into a single digital market.

AfriLabs Annual Gathering 2023 was a great success with High-level panel discussions and dialogue, Meetups, Rwandan Ecosystem Tour, Exhibitions, Masterclasses by subject matter industry experts, Networking, An engaged Pan-African & global audience, and Gala night.

This proves that AfriLabs as the largest African network for technology and innovation hubs is playing a pivotal role in fostering innovation across the African continent, with dedication to nurturing tech-driven entrepreneurship and creativity, through various initiatives and programs like the Annual Gathering, RevUp Women, The AfriLabs Connect Deal Room, AfriLabs Connect, The working mother’s guide, launched by Jennifer Okeke-Ojiudu, AfriLabs’ Senior Ecosystem Engagement Manager, etc.

AfriLabs is a dynamic innovation-focused organization empowering and building a community around innovation hubs and other stakeholders across various African countries since 2011.

These hubs serve as physical co-working spaces and dedicated offices, offering comprehensive training and invaluable support in areas such as business, legalities, and finance to African entrepreneurs, innovators, developers, and young individuals.

Through active involvement with these hubs and their communities, AfriLabs actively contributes to cultivating innovators and entrepreneurs, ultimately driving economic growth and social development throughout Africa