Kenya plans a “Silicon Savannah” innovation hub to achieve the SDGs quickly

21 Sep 2019
Kenya plans a “Silicon Savannah” innovation hub to achieve the SDGs quickly

The Government of Kenya today signed a Communique with the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkeley, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the United Nations to inspire future action and support for the delivery of Kenya’s Big Four agenda. The objective is to build SDG-focused partnerships to drive financing and innovations that help tackle complex development goals.

The Government of Kenya also announced the launch of a co-created SDG Accelerator Lab to leverage the recently-initiated UNDP Accelerator Lab Network as a strategic development platform for Kenya that will bring together the government, private sector, civil society, philanthropy, academia, and young people to reimagine development for the 21st century.

Speaking during the signing event, Hon. Joseph Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Kenya stated that “As a government, we recognize that innovation and technology will be at the heart of job creation, the manufacturing industry, guaranteeing food security for the country and ensuring universal healthcare. As a country, we have always taken pride in the space that we have provided to tech start-up communities, who have gone ahead to build some of the most amazing apps and systems. The partnerships signed today will harness the ongoing initiatives in our tech community to accelerate the actualization of our National Development goals. We are thankful for our partnerships with the UN SDG Partnership Platform (administered by the MPTF Office), UNDP Accelerator Labs Network, Berkeley University CEGA, and the Rockefeller Foundation. We call upon all our partners to join efforts in making the SDG Accelerator Lab a ground-breaking success for leapfrogging the attainment of Kenya’s development priorities”.

The Lab will re-imagine how development work is done, promoting a culture of innovation and experimentation. The capacity to adapt in a rapidly changing environment will become key for the UN to stay relevant and provide effective support to Kenya to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The Rockefeller Foundation has a long history of working with the Government of Kenya to improve the lives and prospects of its citizens. Today we reaffirm our continued commitment and partnership with this communique. We are excited to be part of this journey, and look forward to advancing Kenya’s strategies and partnerships to achieve the Kenya Big Four Agenda,” said Christine Heenan, Senior Vice President for Global Policy and Advocacy, The Rockefeller Foundation.

Tapping into the UNDP Accelerator Labs network, the Kenya SDGs Accelerator Lab aims to leverage knowledge and learning from others through the global network and enrich developmental thinking and implementation through exploration and experimentation of multiple possible ideas, and find contextualized solutions that can be deployed rapidly and sustainably.

“Today’s development challenges are complex, and the speed at which they evolve requires agility, innovation, creativity and urgency. How development actors respond to the fast-changing realities of the 21 Century will be based on the ability to harness homegrown solutions and formation of strategic partnerships, from global to grassroots levels, that guarantee endless possibilities of ideas and multiplicity of solutions. UNDP Accelerator Labs initiative is one such vehicle that can potentially help to align strategic partnerships with emerging innovations.” Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa

In collaboration with local actors, including private sector and academia, the SDGs Accelerator Lab will be identifying and harnessing homegrown solutions that have proof of concept, with the aim of bringing them to scale, while creating an enabling environment for young innovators to conceptualise, test and deliver interventions that best work for their communities.

“We are delighted by this opportunity to inspire positive social change in Kenya by supporting the Lab with rigorous research and connecting partners to our Silicon Valley enterprise ecosystem,” said Carson Christiano, Executive Director, Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), University of California, Berkeley

Together with the Government of Kenya, through the Ministry of ICT, the SDGs Accelerator will build on and complement government-led initiatives such as the Ajira Program, Digitalent Innovation Program, the Whitebox Platform and harness the power of tech-innovation to empower youth in becoming solution-oriented and employment creators; focusing on women, youth, vulnerable and marginalized groups, underpinning the ambition of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.

UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya Siddharth Chatterjee noted “as the UN in Kenya we strongly believe in the power of partnerships and stand ready to deliver as one our finest support to making the SDG Accelerator Lab a ground-breaking success.”

Photo at the signing of the joint communique, from left to right: Siddharth Chatterjee UN Resident Coordinator Kenya.; Ms Christine Heenan, Senior VP Rockerfellar Foundation; Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru EGH, Ministry of Information and Communications, Kenya; Ms Carson Christiano, Executive Director, CEGA, UC Berkley.

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