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Innovation and Entrepreneurship : Opportunities for Youths in Africa in Web 2.0 and Social Media

Zvavanyange Raymond Erick1

Last month during March 7-11, 2011, I participated in a youth training and exchange workshop in Ghana on Web 2.0 and social media for Development in Agriculture and Rural Development. The training was sponsored by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development (CTA) (www.cta.int)  based in the Netherlands and facilitated by Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (CSIR-INSTI) of Ghana. Through its Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in Information Society (ARDYIS) project, CTA brought together more than 18 youths from English and French speaking countries in Africa, all united by the same passion of improving agriculture through the use of  information communication technologies (ICTs). Additional resources on Web 2.0 and social media for development such as  the Information Management Kit (IMARK)(http://www.imarkgroup.org) from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) were used for e-learning practice.

Four days were devoted to rigorous training on Web 2.0 and social media for development such as Facebook, Twitter, Really Simple Syndicates (RSS), Google Applications and blogs and one day for exchange and sharing of knowledge. The high level of participation among participants is reflected in the outcome communiqué. The training challenged youths to be the “next thing” in use of ICTs and agriculture. Youths were awoken to the fact that they must not be consumers of technology but innovators in the wake of complex developmental issues in the 21st century.

The fact that I am a beginner in using Web 2.0 and social media did not obstruct the simple instructions given to us by the trainers. It required only little time  to “create or sign up for a new account” and “start using it”. Although this was fun this was not the best part which turned out to be using our newly created accounts to communicate agriculture.

I also learned that Web 2.0 and social media are dubbed the second generation Internet by users. Traditionally the Internet was known only to military and security persons but that has since changed with the introduction of Web 2.0 and social media. Today, both young and old in both developed and developing countries have Internet at their finger tips. Indeed ICT has changed virtually every aspect of users’ lives.  For example, for new business partnerships, in addition to the use of business or name cards, people often ask each other the funny question, “Are you on Facebook, MSN, Yahoo Messenger?”

In order to use effectively and derive benefits from ICT tools, efforts must be geared towards making Web 2.0 and social media applicable to individual and group needs in Africa. In order for ICTs to serve their purposes, young entrepreneurs in Africa should explore innovative ways to synchronize  their  needs with opportunities introduced by Web 2.0

Innovation and entrepreneurship are emerging opportune areas for Africa because they are associated with social and technological progress. While innovation refers to the “ideas or thought processes” entrepreneurship refers to the act of putting an innovation into practise. As such, the terms innovation and entrepreneurship often come up in discussions among policy makers, politicians, motivation speakers, innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, technocrats and politicians. However, whether one is talking about a new business or a new idea, the focus on time element is crucial for the realization of either or both. Innovation lacking time emphasis is obsolete and equally entrepreneurship without time focus is profitless.

Web 2.0 and social media can help create the synergy between innovation and entrepreneurship. Through sharing of business thoughts and ideas there is greater interaction towards the common objective. This is an entry point for youths because of their creativity, need for interaction and sometimes “wild ideas”. Innovation and entrepreneurship are both appealing and acceptable to young people in Africa because  they are excited about the  idea of being the first one to do something new. There are opportunities in translation in different languages spoken across the African continent such as English, French, KiSwahili, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Arabic and Chewa. This translation when made possible through ICTs in various social media settings allows civic society  to focus on development strategies  and contribute to employment creation

Web 2.0 and social media can indeed transform the face of other economic domains such as procurement, marketing, food production, value chains and sustainability. The minimum requirement for use of Web 2.0 and social media is to be a consistent user, and to acquire relevant tools, applications and the skill. Once the synergy is created, it could improve the way we debate issues, facilitate economic growth, academic exchange, and remote collaboration of experts with young professionals.  With the help of Web 2.0, a development revolution could become inevitable and opportunities manifold.

1. National Chung Hsing University of Taiwan. Corresponding author: publicproafrica@gmail.com.

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