Event targets to unleash youth potential through innovation

SAHARA Ventures, in collaboration with longstanding partners, on Monday launched Sahara Sparks 2022 – a week-long bustle of activities themed “Potential Unleashed,” focusing on unleashing the potential of young people in Africa through digital innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.

This year’s theme, according to Sahara Ventures Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jumanne Mtambalike, has been informed by the need to explore strategic areas to unlock the potential of young people through digital innovation and entrepreneurship.

“This year, we are continuing our collaboration with our partner, the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), who have supported us over the years, and our main sponsor for the event, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Funguo Innovation Programme, which is funded by the European Union and co-funded by UNDP and the British Government,” he said.

Sahara Sparks has become a staple activity for the country’s innovation ecosystem, and this year’s theme could not have come at a more opportune time as the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa recently reminded local authorities to implement government directives to empower youth.

“Africa is the youngest continent in the world, with a median age of 25. The population of Africa will continue to grow until it doubles by 2050. Fifteen fastest-growing cities are in Africa, three of which are in Tanzania,” Mtambalike said when elaborating on the theme for this year’s event.

He identified the strategic areas that need to be given considerable attention: Digital and Financial Inclusion, Skills in The Digital Age, Energy-Tech and Innovation, Tech-Transfer and Research for Development, Grassroots and Community Driven Innovation, Emerging Technologies and Digital Entrepreneurship, and Data, Digital Leadership, and Governance.

He continued by saying that individuals with vast experience and expertise in the field will address each of the key thematic areas, amongst whom will be the Director General of the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), Dr Amos Nungu, and Amb (rtd) Ami Mpungwe.

Moreover, he added that the 2022 event is structured in three parts: the conference–the main event; meet ups–partners’ engagement events; and the market place–for linking startups with investors.

Dr Nungu noted that Sahara Sparks as a platform has been instrumental in sparking discussions and actions related to technology transfer and commercialisation of innovations in the country.

He recalled that some of the first cohorts of MAKISATU in 2019 were sent to Sahara Sparks to participate and learn about the commercialization journey of their innovations, adding that the government, through COSTECH, will continue to work with Sahara Ventures and other stakeholders to engage and assist innovators to make sure they can make impactful innovations that can compete in the market.

“Research outputs from our higher Learning Institutions also need to be commercialized and Sahara Sparks is among the important outlets to achieve that goal,” he added.

For his part, Joseph Manirakiza, Programme Manager of UNDP’s Funguo Programme, said: “We are delighted once again to support Sahara Sparks through the FUNGUO Innovation Programme. Sahara Sparks is a great platform that contributes to strengthening the Tanzania innovation ecosystem through strategic engagements.

As an innovation program, we aim to unlock the potential of impact-driven startups and innovative SMEs by supporting initiatives that enable them to scale and attract financing, creating job opportunities for the many young people waiting for them”.

Sahara Sparks is a platform launched in 2016 by Sahara Ventures, a group of companies that focus on building innovation and technology entrepreneurship ecosystems in Africa to foster transactions and conversations around innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Since its establishment, Sahara Sparks has hosted over 300 high-profile speakers, over 20,000 attendees, and over 3000 small businesses, startups, and SMEs. It has hosted global, regional, and national leaders; senior public and private sector officials and leaders; prominent academicians and researchers; investors and change-makers.

Some of the notable figures of our previous events include Jakaya Kikwete, the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Sahara Sparks’ mission has been to ignite conversations and critical engagement that accelerate innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship as tools for promoting job creation and broader socio-economic development.

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