South African innovation ecosystem “missing” – Pandor

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South Africa’s innovation ecosystem is “missing”, according to minister of science technology Naledi Pandor, with the private sector urged to do more to help startups and innovation.

Pandor made the remarks during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa held in Cape Town last week.

The minister said South Africa was an increasingly innovative society, with many startups coming up with solutions to everyday challenges and problems, but that not enough was being done by all stakeholders to support entrepreneurs.

“We’re having a lot of inventiveness, and a lot of creation, but it flows into a deep hole at some point. What we have to create are instruments that close the gap,” she said.

Pandor said organisations such as the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Department of Small Business Development were playing their part, but that the private sector needed to do more.

“In South Africa we also have to encourage the private sector, which is very big and has lots of money, to play a far greater role than it is doing,” she said.

“So we have begun, but I think the private sector has to do much more and be much more risk-interested than risk-averse, which I think is the current climate. And that is a challenge.”

Speaking during the same panel discussion, Njideka Harry, president and chief executive officer of Nigeria’s Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), said it was important government enabled an innovation ecosystem by offering attractive tax incentives.

Harry said developments in technologies such as 3D printing had played a huge role in enabling an entrepreneurial ecosystem that now needed to be supported by various stakeholders.

“Look at technology such as 3D printing, that can enable anyone living anywhere to create, imagine the world and the future that they would like the world to be and create that,” she said.

“An entrepreneur in X, Y or Z country in Africa can just dream up an idea. And then maybe they want to start manufacturing phone cases or what have you. They can, with limited capital, create that business.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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