COVID-19 innovation an alert that Kenya should kindle building culture

The Kenyan space has recently over the period of the covid-19 crisis seen a number of innovations with the most conspicuous being the ventilator invented by 16 Kenyatta University students at the Chandaria Center for Incubation and Innovation .

Such is a message good enough that Kenya has both intellectual and infrastructural sophistication to disrupt the status quo and kindle a building culture. Though this has come at a good time, typically infant inventions suffer low production due to the time lag between certification bureaucracies , adoption and full industrial scale production and these render them more less solutions to future pandemics than present pandemics. It could be different for mobile application based innovations which run virtually and can be quite scalable.

The epicenter of this conversation however, is that Africa should kindle a spirit of creation, a desire to invent with the intellectual and infrastructural sophistication at our disposal and an initiative to drive the innovations to full scale industrial production.These would economically leverage African countries and the most outstanding case example is M-PESA, a native invention that has been grown to industrial scale and into a global brand. (M-PESA generated Ksh 84.4 billion in EBIT for the financial year ended April 2020)

A typical macro-benchmark would however be the four Asian tigers(Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea). In a deliberate move to acquire technological and production capabilities, the countries incentivised manufacturing luring foreign players and promoting Turnkey Projects. ILS ( Interactive Learning Systems ) programs with various industry actors advanced local human capital attaining optimal productivity per personnel. A building culture and imitative reverse engineering and innovation to attain product autonomy and even build nextgen technologies has made these countries home to cutting-edge tech that has sustained global competitiveness and dominance especially for electronics and semiconductors. At the core is education restructuring. Thanks to these advances the 4 countries have sustained rapid economic growth since the 60s matching their European counterparts.

A classical recommendation for Kenya would be to build innovation as a core in its colleges and universities. With limited local capabilities intensified relations between industry and academia would work best for both. Offering internships for students right at the beginning of their studies or offering embedded programs where students can work while studying can offer them an absolute experience of industry dynamics and nurture problem solving innovativeness through R&D due to the real time marriage between practice and theory and drive domestic inventions.

For sustained competitiveness, collaborative projects between institutions and corporations would equip corps with up to date methodologies and construction of industrial prototypes that’ll be nextgen products and sources of new revenue streams.
To acquire industrial technologies and leverage our limited financial feasibility intra-industry partnerships between mid size local enterprises with foreign players through Turnkey Projects and ILS programs would aid to grow human capital productivity and drive them into regional players. Follow up R&D would ensure tech sustainability and prolonged competitiveness of locally produced products. Aggregatively these initiatives backed with a stable macro environment and entrepreneur customized financial tools would be a breakthrough for Kenya.

The Writer, George Matogo is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) Duke Hub

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