Italy supports Mozambican leaders in promoting innovation

Earlier this July, the Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino, two prestigious technical Italian universities, together with Italian Development Cooperation Agency, launched a one-year program to accompany the embracement of the Next Production Revolution (NPR) in at least 6 priority African countries (Tunisia, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique). The “Emerging African Innovation Leaders” initiative will provide 18 selected innovation brokers with the skills and competences needed to train a new generation of leaders who will accompany the embracement of the NPR in their countries. The training sessions are distributed along 12 months starting from September 2018, and brokers will benefit from both in-person and on-line training. They will disseminate their experience through a digital platform called the Africa innovation cradle, connecting participants and facilitating the exchange of good practices throughout the continent. Once back, they are expected to forge the next generation of innovation leaders: in fact, they will train ten colleagues each on subjects ranging from 3D printing to Internet of Things, from advanced robotics to artificial intelligence, creating a national network of leaders in their own countries and generating a cascade of beneficiaries.

The initiative originates from the 2017 Taormina G7 summit session on “Innovation and Development in Africa”. This high-level meeting highlighted how innovation and human capital development are crucial to unlock Africa’s potential and to accelerate technological and scientific innovation to maximize the benefits of the NPR.

The focus on leadership development, innovation and digital technologies echoes an initiative recently launched by the Obama foundation called “Leaders: Africa”, whose objective is to train African civic leaders to engage and drive change in their countries. Trainees are currently attending a robust program of online courses, and will remain connected through an online platform where they will engage in topical discussions, access training resources and participate in webinars led by experts.

The Maputo Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation has recently met the three Mozambican participants in the initiative. Among the requirements to apply for the program, trainees had to possess personal experience in the field of innovation, have a leadership attitude, and be willing to extend their knowledge and skills on the NPR. The brokers will have a crucial role for the identification and training of the next generation of Mozambican innovation leaders. Claudio, Lucia and Fernando were selected among 400 candidates, and despite having different professional backgrounds, they all share a passion for digital innovation.

Claudio Buque got his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, and is currently working as Energy Specialist for the World Bank. He’s willing to participate in the Program because he would like to explore new digital solutions that may contribute to his country’s growth. “Innovation is something which is not very discussed in Mozambique, and the current debate is not really structured”, he affirms. Claudio is excited about having the opportunity to travel to Italy and enthusiastic to come back and train the next generation of innovators: he is confident that the extremely young population in Mozambique (where almost 50% is under 18) represents a great potential for boosting his country transition to the NPR.

Lucia Ginger is a professor at the Department of Information Technology of “São Tomás” University in Maputo. In her perspective, the fact that the results of research conducted in local research institutes and universities are limited, decision making relies on research developed abroad, preventing the development of local capacities to identify challenges and solutions. The reason she applied to the Program is to acquire more skills and knowledge to accelerate and contribute to the process of local capacity development in the academia. She is passionate about teaching and is looking forward to train the Mozambican leaders of tomorrow. “Learning is only possible when there is an exchange of experiences” she concludes, underlining how crucial will be the encounter and confrontation with innovator brokers from other countries.

Fernando Carlos has been a senior lecturer at the University Eduardo Mondlane, the oldest and largest public University in Mozambique, since 1984. He is specialized in corporate finance, but his academic path is multifarious: he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and one in Computing and Information Systems (University of Manchester – UK), a Master’s degree  in Computer Science (University of Adelaide –Australia) and finally a Master’s degree in Financial Economics (SOAS University in London). Innovation is no novelty to Fernando: the Faculty of Economics of Eduardo Mondlane University pioneered distance learning in the country (through ICTs), including a new methodology based on group-work for enhanced and more interactive learning. In his view, innovation could represent a powerful tool to enable Mozambique economic growth.

Claudio, Lucia and Fernando will fly to Milan on September 25th: good luck to our Mozambican innovation brokers!