Read time: 3 minutes

Botswana Innovation Hub CEO calls for collaboration

Botswana Innovation Hub CEO calls for collaboration

As he takes over the reins at the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) Africa Division, newly elected President Alan Boshwaen has reiterated his firm belief that science, technology and research parks (STPs) and other areas of innovation are most valuable for ICT led prosperity around the continent.

Boshwaen, who is also Botswana Innovation Hub CEO, replaces McLean Sibanda, South Africa Innovation Hub CEO, as head of the IASP Africa Division.

"I am thrilled to have this opportunity to play a leading role in the growth of the industry of science and technology parks in Africa. We have had an excellent relationship with McLean Sibanda and the team at the innovation hub in Pretoria and taking over from him at this time means that I can continue to build on the fine work he has done in activating the regional network and fostering collaborations."

Boshwaen says the benefits realised in many countries around the world as a result of changes to economic systems brought by STP's and areas of innovation mean that the same thing is possible in Africa.

"We have come to realise that science and technology parks and areas of innovation have catapulted the most prosperous countries to where they are today as they came to rely less on commodities and extractive industries and more on the ingenuity and skills of their people, as well as actively deployed technology and science. In the next two years I would like to grow the network from where it is today where it remains the smallest of the IASP Regions. This is possible because in addition to the few science parks in operation, there are many more active technology entrepreneurship incubators in most regions of Africa who have not played thus far a very active role in the global association. In addition it is possible to deepen collaboration on the unique issues facing African science and technology parks and spread awareness about the benefits to more people."

Role for ICT businesses

Boshwaen says some of the challenges faced by STP's and areas of innovation in Africa, like power shortages and inadequate connectivity, can be resolved over time by creating dedicated physical centers of excellence spurred by public private collaboration - similar to what Botswana has achieved with the 57 hectare Botswana Innovation Hub site in Gaborone, with the support of private sector players and the government.

"The private sector and leading ICT companies are a crucial aspect of finding sustainable or commercially viable innovations or local content creation in various sectors because they have the experience and market intelligence to know what might work in the market on this basis. It is important to make a special effort to attract leading ICT companies into the IASP network. For these companies the benefits are that they create better links and access for themselves to technology entrepreneurs or to academics focused on African issues or problems that may be the winning solutions in the future."

Boshwaen, along with Regional Division Presidents from Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America, constitute the Executive Board of IASP.

He elaborated on how Africa can set set itself apart under his tenure which runs until 2018.

"Unlike other regions of the world such as Asia ,North America or Europe, science and technology parks or dedicated areas of innovation are still in their infancy in Africa. Silicon Valley is perhaps the best known area of innovation that has spurred some of the leading global innovations in ICT comprised of investors and venture capital. The parks in Africa will certainly evolve in different ways and focus on differing priorities and niche areas, but overall they are a dynamic and powerful platform and enabler to more rapid technology transfer and commercialisations of indigenous innovations."

Daily newsletter