In February 2016, the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) convened 300 of the most promising innovators in Africa, for the 2016 Grand Challenges Africa Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

The meeting, held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi and featuring 475 participants from 43 countries, helped set a scientific and innovation agenda for Africa while laying the groundwork for a sustained, scientific advocacy effort to increase international and local African investment in R&D.

Grand Challenges Africa Programme Manager Evelyn Gitau (left) and AESA Director Thomas Kariuki give speeches during the GCA community meeting

“We understand that innovation is generally a risky, long-term investment, and therefore require a long-term funding strategy to provide innovators with the resources they need to succeed, said Tom Kariuki, Director for AESA.

 “This is a crucial cornerstone we need to establish if we are to create knowledge-based economies. We are heartened by the overwhelming positive response that we’ve had ahead of this event.”

Meeting participants included not only the innovators, all of whom are current or former Grand Challenges grantees, but also policymakers and innovation thought leaders from across Africa. Over 100 international grantees and partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and the US Agency for International Development,were in attendance.

The meeting provided a platform for African scientists to network, share their experiences and expertise on how Grand Challenges Africa can best support and engage local innovators.

“Sadly in  Africa as a whole the gap between the knowledge being created and commercialisation is still too wide,” said Evelyn Gitau, Programme Manager, Grand Challenges Africa.“To help change this, Grand Challenges Africa seeks to bridge the gap between industry and innovators and to bring together innovators and potential funders including angel funders, brokers, private equity investors and governments departments.”

Grand Challenges partners have invested $120 million in 380 projects in 29 African countries since 2010. Kenya is the largest recipient with about $26.1 million in 113 projects.

“The Grand Challenges approach to innovation has the potential to transform the way we work: bringing together the world’s brightest minds to solve our biggest development challenges,” said Ayo Ajayi, Director, Africa Team, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “With the leadership of AESA, along with the African Academy of Sciences, NEPAD and other partners, Grand Challenges Africa GC Africa can play a key role in nurturing an innovation ecosystem in Africa.”

Watch videos from the event below