Regional integration has been flagged as an important component to fast-track the transformation of African cities into hubs of innovation.

This emerged during the second day of the Senior Experts Dialogue (SED-2016) on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), taking place in Pretoria, under the theme "Cities as Innovation Hubs for Africa's Transformation".

Delegates believe the sharing of knowledge can benefit regions and eventually the continent. Ms Gertrude Ngabirano, Executive Secretary of the East African Science and Technology Commission, highlighted the need to integrate regions to promote collaborations and partnerships on the continent.

She said innovation in Africa lagged behind owing to boundaries created by previous regimes.

"If we are integrated as a continent, it will assist us to share information and also learn from each other," said Ms Ngabirano.

For instance, she said, many innovators still met with resistance from their respective governments.

"There are lot of our innovators who are unable to commercialise innovation because they need licensing from their governments.  As we integrate ourselves, we need to share information on how to get buy-in from our politicians."

African innovators also raised the need to explore the use of more languages, saying stakeholders should not confine themselves to one language to develop innovations aimed at addressing the needs facing Africa.

Talking about experiences elsewhere that Africa can learn from, Prof. Hamidou Boly, the Economic Community of West African States' Commissioner for Education, Science and Culture, said; "All of us in Africa need to participate and invest in new trends of innovation as most of our cities' largest population is youth. The future of our youth is worth investing in."

Many African countries have recognised the need to develop new cities focused on innovation and the knowledge economy.

Many innovative ideas and technologies originate from locals, but gaps remain between innovative concepts and selling ideas in home languages.

Head of Telecommunications at Economic Community of Central African States(ECCAS), Mr Guichard Tsangou said, "There are thousands of languages spoken in Africa and confining our innovation to one language, English, would delay Africa's agenda to address societal needs through technologies and innovations."

"Linking our innovation with language is misleading," he said. "Let us develop our innovations to solve our problems in our different languages."

The three-day meeting is an initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union Commission and the New Partnership for Africa's Development Planning and Coordinating Agency, supported by the Department of Science and Technology.

The event attracted 21 African countries, including South African metropolitan municipalities such as the Cities of Tshwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Enquiries:

David Mandaha at 072 126 8910 (DST)

Zama Mthethwa at 082 808 3956 (DST)

Sandra Nyaira at 060 470 3274 (UNECA)