Kenya needs policy for innovation to become enterprise


Education CS Amina Mohamed with the University of Nairobi vice-chancellor Peter Mbithi during the Innovation Week. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Three important events took place this week. The first is the Nairobi Innovation Week whose clarion call is ‘innovating for a better tomorrow’. It assembles people from government, private sector, development partners and research centres.

Africa-France Business Forum and the launch of Stars in Africa EU-Africa Youth and Entrepreneurship Forum by the President was second.

Third, the Innovation Summit Africa by The Economist that looked at technology, the expanding labour force and large consumer market, and their place in driving growth across the continent. All run a similar thread of supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.

There is no shortage of innovators, both young and old, who seek to address challenges in Kenya and Africa.

Capital is also increasingly becoming readily available as investors double down on efforts to understand the local context, culture and opportunity. These are the two parts of three that are necessary for the creation of a vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurship pipeline. The third is policy.

In public forums, many remain subscribed to the school of thought that innovation moves at a sprint while legislation seemingly stands still.

READ: Let us walk the talk in Kenya’s quest for innovations hub

While this has held true in the past, and in my opinion for the simple reason that we were just getting started on the journey towards understanding and nurturing innovation ecosystems, we should have already moved to adopt a different mindset that purposefully puts policy at the centre of government support towards the creation of an enabling environment.

M-Pesa’s days as the poster child of innovation that did not seek permission but dragged legislation along should be long gone.

The unique circumstances that led to their through pass, including timing, market preparedness, state and mood of regulatory bodies, embedded champions, switched on enablers cannot be replicated easily.

Blockchain only recently got a taskforce formed, drone conversations have been flying about for a while, energy, health, mobility and a host of other sectors are stifled for poor, ill-formed or non-existent policy.

To reach utopia, agility and speed on the policy front is the true secret sauce.