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Leo Africa Economic Forum: Technology and Entrepreneurship High on Agenda

ivan
LeO Africa Forum Curator, Ivan Rugambwa

Preparations are in high gear ahead of the 2017 LéO Africa Economic Forum in Kampala.

The convention is expected to bring together thought leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and decision makers in both the public and private sectors from across East Africa to explore the extent to which innovations and new technologies are driving change in the three East African economies of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.

It will also address the question: ‘how do we create innovation-driven enterprises that grow the economy while creating jobs?’

ChimpReports (CR) asked LeO Africa Economic Forum Curator, Ivan Rugambwa (IR) to share his thoughts about the upcoming conference. Excerpts:

CR: What inspired you to come up with the idea of the economic forum?

IR: The Economic Forum is not an isolated idea. It is part of LeO Africa Institute’s various initiatives intended to facilitate conversations between emerging thought leaders and policy makers in both the private and public sectors to deliberate on how we can make our economies more inclusive, and job-creating for the vast numbers of our unemployed young people.

CR: How important is the forum to Ugandans?

IR: World over, Technology and Innovations are disrupting the way we work and live, and inevitably, only those economies that are able to adjust and reform to maximally leverage these emerging technologies to spur equitable growth and create jobs for their people, will be the new frontiers for the Future.

That’s why these conversations are important. East Africa is now the fastest growing region in Africa, but this growth is often exclusive and barely creating jobs for its young people, who’re a demographic majority. And we’re asking, can we leverage technology and invest in our entrepreneurs to address this imbalance?

CR:  What makes this event unique?          

IR: This Forum is unique because it’s focusing on the people who are actually doing things, thinking and producing the new ideas, whether it is in innovation hubs or struggling with entrepreneurial startups in the market.

And majority of these are young people, for whom the market and the public sector have proven barren of jobs and opportunity. So we’re inviting key policy makers in the private and public sectors to interact with them.

Many of their enterprises have vast potential to grow, create jobs and impact more people. But they need to be supported, both at the macro (policy) level, like making internet and power cheaper and easing access to credit, but also in form of entrepreneurial training and capacity development.

Can the Public partner with the Private sector to realise this? This is an important conversation that we’ll be having

CR: Is the function open to the public?

IR: The Function was open to the Public -via registration, but which as we speak, has closed.

CR: What should we expect from the presenters?

IR: Like I hinted above, speakers at the Forum will be deliberating on how to grow ideas – from conception, to the market place. In between there are numerous challenges, ranging from Financing for these ideas, or even having cheap incubation centers where they can be nurtured to grow into full investable ventures.

What is the role of the Public and Private sector players in facilitating this progress? This is what they’ll be talking about.  But disruptions are not only limited to the economy.

They’re also influencing global culture and how we behave /relate with authority. Is Our Learship adjusting and embracing these changes? This is another conversation we’ll be having.

CR: How often is the forum held?

IR: The Forum has been held Once every Year since 2014. This will be the Fourth of its kind.

CR: What will be the level of participation by the young people in this forum?

IR: Young people will certainly be the biggest participants. World over, they’re the ones pushing the boundaries of how we do things and innovating the new ideas that are reinvigorating economies.

Uganda and East Africa in general are no exception. Young people, confronted by the inadequacy of jobs in the formal sector, are constantly thinking of new ideas to create opportunities for themselves and their peers. And this Forum will provide a platform for their ideas to be heard.

CR: How relevant is the forum to business people and entrepreneurs?

IR: Essentially for Business people and Entrepreneurs, this is their Forum.   For Business people, it’s important for them to know where the next big idea is being hatched, and how they can leverage it to advance their business.

This is because, for businesses to remain in the market, they have to be constantly think, innovating and reforming to cope with market trends and the ever evolving tastes of their customers and clients.

CR: How have previous economic forums held by Leo Africa helped shape debate on issues that affect the common man?

IR: The First and Second Economic Forums focused on the extractives Industry at the time when a discussion on Uganda’s Oil was just emerging onto the public domain.

They helped generate informed debate on the opportunities and fears, emphasising the need for Transparency and the need for the protection of host communities that has informed progress during exploration, and now towards extraction.

Last year’s conference underscored the importance of reducing inequality, coming on the heels of Sustainable Development Goals, during which Uganda played a prominent role as co-chair of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly.

We continue to follow up with policy makers on the progress on commitments undertaken at the Forum

CR: And what are the key topics expected to be addressed by the participants?

IR: The topics at this year’s forum will range from incubation of ideas into investable ventures, incentivizing the Private sector to invest in Innovations and how innovations are disrupting Global Culture and influencing leadership locally. We’ll also have a session on how to nurture the next generation of Innovators with particular focus on Science Education.

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