UNDP Accelerator Labs and AfriLabs partner to advance innovation policy in Africa

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Labs and AfriLabs held a hybrid live and virtual event hosted by AfriLabs as part of their 2021 Annual Gathering on 29 October, 2021 to formally announce their partnership and path forward. 

Anna Ekeledo, AfriLabs Executive Director and William Tsuma, Senior Advisor and UNDP Nigeria Accelerator Lab Focal Point attended the in-person event at the ImpactCove Hub in Abuja, Nigeria. Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa and Gina Lucarelli, UNDP Accelerator Labs Team Leader joined virtually.

This partnership between two well-established actors in the African innovation ecosystem will focus on harnessing the knowledge of local innovators across the continent to close the gap towards the Sustainable Development Global Goals (SDGs). To date, Africa is only on track for Goal 14 (life below water), with a regression on Goals such as 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), which is why we urgently need to mobilize the collective intelligence of more than 1 billion Africans to accelerate progress toward these Goals.

 While Africa is fueled by an incredibly innovative community of grassroots innovators, youth and members of the informal sector, governments do not yet fully utilize this incredible potential. With this partnership the UNDP Accelerator Lab Network and AfriLabs bet on the African innovation ecosystem to increase its contribution to solving the continent’s most pressing development challenges and advance innovation policy in Africa.

Both partners’ scale and networks across the continent make them uniquely positioned to achieve that. The UNDP Accelerator Lab Network comprises 91 labs covering 115 countries among which 35 are located in Africa, and AfriLabs is the largest pan-African network, comprising 320 technology and innovation hubs across 51 African countries and the diaspora.

AfriLabs board and management representatives with team members of UNDP Accelerator Labs.

 “With our youth population projected to be over 500 million over the next 5 years, the importance of job creation cannot be understated, and innovation hubs act as a platform that build systems and businesses that create these jobs. We see this partnership as a powerful collaboration that can multiply the effect of our goals and we look forward to recording measurable impact tailored to revolutionize the innovation ecosystem in Africa,” Anna Ekeledo, Executive Director of AfriLabs said about the partnership.

“Together, AfriLabs and the 35 UNDP Accelerator Labs in Africa will draw lessons from existing policies and develop a framework which will be shared as input for African leaders,” said Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa. “This can shape inclusive innovation policies that will better address the complexity of current development challenges.”

“Bottom-up innovation plays a critical role if we want to accelerate progress towards the Goals,” shared Gina Lucarelli, UNDP Accelerator Labs Team Leader. “We know there is power in the homegrown innovation happening across the continent and this partnership will help us tap into this potential. I am particularly excited about the upcoming national innovation policy dialogues we are co-organizing to surface what kind of innovation policies can unleash and enable all that power.” 

The signing ceremony has officially kickstarted this knowledge partnership for the African innovation and development ecosystem. Next up, the partners are organizing a panel series called the “Africa Innovation Policy Dialogues” which will take place in 2021 and 2022, starting in Nigeria and Kenya in November 2021, and will discuss how local innovations can contribute to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals even, and especially, in times of COVID-19. 

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