Even though President Uhuru Kenyatta admits that “innovation is the engine that drives entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship opens up opportunities for the young people and creates jobs that sustain and reward them as well,” Kenyan innovators have for a long time lacked the support to upscale their innovations.
However, for the first time in the history of the country, Kenya is set to have a week-long national innovation event dubbed Kenya Innovation Week (KIW), signifying a great milestone in enhancing the country's innovation system.
Under the theme “The Innovativeness of Kenyans,” The inaugural forum coordinated by the country’s innovation agency, Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA) is scheduled to run from the 6 th to 10 th of December, 2021 and has the prospects of advancing the national priorities of the Big 4 Agenda, Vision 2030, Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha says the event will be a boost for the Education and Research sector, noting that it will in a great way enhance socio-economic development.
“Kenya Innovation Week will be a flagship forum in line with the reforms trajectory of Education and Research, improved institutional sustainability and socio-economic development,” Prof. Magoha says.
The agency responsible for co-ordination, promotion and regulation of the National Innovation ecosystem has identified four tracks that the 2021 Innovation Week will focus on; Skills for Innovation, Research & Commercialization, Startups Kenya, Tech & 4th Industrial Revolution, and will leverage on the Counties, Innovation hubs, Universities, TVETS, and Research Centers to ensure the success of the Innovation Week.
Skills for Innovation track will explore sharing and disseminating information on how to enhance innovativeness of society through skills development from early childhood to career levels.
Startups Kenya trajectory will focus on startups from across the country with an aim to showcase and link the most promising startups to investors and funders.
Tech & the 4th Industrial Revolution track will aim to promote the modern intangible technologies such as IoT, mobile devices, 3D printing, smart sensors, big data and analytics, augmented and virtual reality as enablers of innovation.
And Research and Commercialization track will focus on strengthening best practices and systems for good research and commercialization of innovations.
Focus on Innovation
The man at the helm of the country’s Innovation Agency, Dr. Tonny Omwansa observes that innovation is so important a subject that the whole country should be focusing on, at least once every year.
“We want to get the entire country revolving around the Kenya Innovation Week at that particular time. We celebrate days like Mashujaa day and the whole country focuses on that. I don’t see why the country shouldn’t be focusing on the innovation agenda.”
“We’re going to have workshops, seminars, boot camps, hackathons, training forums, and there is a reason why we want to focus on the people, because it is the movement that comes out of the people that then create solutions.”
Dr. Omwansa knows very well the benefits of an Innovation forum, having been the brain behind the formation of the Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW), and is very much aware of the role every citizen has to play to ensure the country make a significant improvement in the innovation ecosystem.
“Each of us is creative; each of us is innovative. It’s only that our style and our intensity at a personal level are different. When we say the innovativeness of Kenyans, each of us should feel they are a part and parcel of it,” Says Dr. Omwansa.
Ranked at position 86 in the 2020 Global Innovation Index (GII), there is a growing need to improve the country’s innovation ecosystem and Kenya Innovation Week 2021 will achieve this by convening the local governments, private sector, development partners, media and civil society in order to capitalize in as much shared value as possible, hence enabling the country climb the GII ladder.