In Uganda it’s been said that if you’ve been to one tech hub meeting, you’ve probably been to them all. You’ll find the same avid developers pitching to the same angel-cum-tourist investor, the same curious for something new crowd. Thick in the air will be the aroma of yet another global competition to participate in and the left overs of innovators that fell along the wayside.
Every year, the media will highlight some app, profile an innovator or some electrifying invention (Oh I thought we were going to see electric cars on the road this year) and after that we’ve moved on.
Our developers are just as good as those anywhere else on the planet, their greatest undoing is the lack of a vibrant ecosystem, to support and nurture their development efforts.
In leading universities across the world, students are exposed early on to the world of innovation in very practical ways. At Waterloo University, Canada, for example, the business and technology class had a monthly meeting with the business community where businesses expressed their challenges as students listened in and formulated ideas to solve those problems. It was an opportunity to learn to think like a business person, but also an opportunity to network and build confidence and skills to approach them for partnerships and refinement of ideas.
It was a win-win situation. The businesses were able to feed off the vivacious startup up ideas of student-entrepreneurs, while we the students thrived on having old age acumen guide to dicey ventures. It cost no one a cent and gave everyone publicity.
What else can be done on the cheap to create favourable circumstances for our talented developers? A trend that’s become fashionable (because of its practicality and benefits) - mentorship. Unless you’ve amassed wealth in questionable circumstances, there’s plenty to teach raw student minds. University mentorship programmes for innovators can be established by inviting seasoned entrepreneurs for monthly talks and linkages with students.
Finally, what are we doing with all our strategic global partnerships? The government could create a national innovator’s competition with high enough stakes. Societies that have thrived for decades are those that appreciate, recognise, applaud and award innovation.
In football, it’s called the Transfer Window-a time of extravagant purchases for the best. And football as a result reaps watcher, merchandise and betting revenues.
Joyce Kyeyune Tonda is the Managing Editor Enterprise Technology.