On 27 May 2022, the East African Community (EAC), through the “Digital Skills for an Innovative East African Industry” (dSkills@EA) hosted a regional stakeholders’ engagement forum that took place in Kampala, Uganda. The regional gathering brought together key innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem actors from startup support organizations, the business community, academia and governance institutions of science and technology, represented from across the EAC Partner States Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The workshop was organized by the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) through the project dSkills@EA.
The aim of the workshop was to explore opportunities for enhancing regional collaboration and forming synergies between the national ecosystems, with offers for practical solutions that contribute to EAC’s digital transformation initiatives for regional development and integration. National innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem stakeholders from across the EAC were represented, such as the East African Communications Organization (EACO) and Envisage Incubator from Rwanda; Koneta Hub and UNDP Accelerator Hub from South Sudan, Tanzania Startup Association (TSA) and Nelson Mandela Institution for Science and Technology (NM-AIST) from Tanzania; Association of Startup and SMEs Enablers of Kenya (ASSEK) and Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA) from Kenya, StartHub Africa and D4D Hub from Uganda, University of Burundi and Aclis Africa from Burundi, to mention but a few.
Just recently, the Digital Innovations for Business Resilience Programme by dSkills@EA provided a platform for university young innovators to showcase ideas and link with the business community and innovation support networks for adoption and scaling. The Regional Stakeholders’ Innovation Ecosystem workshop benchmarked upon the success of the programme with an intention to build strong sustainable collaboration between the universities and innovation ecosystem actors for extension of support for implementation of digital innovations in the region.
In depth group discussions were focused on how key actors in the ecosystem can strengthen their roles and contributions in supporting young innovators scale their ideas and implement digital solutions that are demand-oriented and market-driven. An agreement was made on priority areas for regional research as well as further deliberation of collaboration in areas of synergies between the dSkills@EA project and potential stakeholders, that support dynamic interaction among the academia, industry and innovation support networks in the region.
The innovation transfer programs within dSkills@EA aims at equipping young innovators with digital skills and knowledge for acquisition and utilization tools necessary to accelerate innovations from ideation to prototyping to the region’s digital transformation initiatives in addressing regional and global socio-economic challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the future, dSkills@EA plans to continue to effectively support young innovators at universities in the region to develop digital solutions and design new digital business models for business resilience and eventually launch into market, through the involvement of various key ecosystem actors in the EAC region. Building and strengthening academia-industry partnerships is key, while bridging the gap between knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer.
Digital Skills for an Innovative East African Industry (dSkills@EA) Project is part of the technical development cooperation between the German Government under the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the East African Community (EAC) and the EAC Secretariat. The project has established the Centre of Excellence for ICT in East Africa (CENIT@EA) and is implemented by the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), together with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the East African-German academic consortium led by the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) and the University of Oldenburg (UOL) together with its partners the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), the University of Technology and Arts Byumba (UTAB), the University of Applied Sciences Mannheim and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Further key partners include the East African Business Council (EABC), the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) and the East African Telecommunications Organization (EACO).