Friday, 18 November 2011 13:20

Benin youth drives African innovation

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Do you have an idea? Maybe to provide cheap electricity generators to the people in your town? Or have you invented a machine that would test the African soil and point farmers in the right direction on what crops to plant? If the idea is good and you are struggling to get the project off the ground, a group of young people from Benin might have the solution.

CINC, or the Cotonou International Forum for New Discovery, is an NGO that has created a network of African inventors. The aim of the organisation is to bring money to the ideas and boost development in Africa by helping the continent’s innovators. And, to date, 59 companies from around the world think that is a great idea. Now the politicians are following suit.

Barbara Macon, president of CINC, says at the core of the forum is the idea that your dream can, and should, be realised. “A lot of people are talking about us now. We have put in a large amount of work to get to where we are now, but now people are starting to support us.

“Sometimes you feel like you just want to give up, but the dream keeps you working. If you give up, you will not realise your dream. I just have to tell people. It is not important what people are thinking about you, but it is important what you think about yourself. That is the message I want to share with the youth out there.

“Stick with your dream and your dream may very well come true.”

High-level support
CINC now has support at the highest level of the Benin government. They are helping more than 60 innovators from Benin, but also from other parts of Africa, to develop their ideas through promotion. And Macon says promotion and networking is helping the inventors to get the capital they need to develop their ideas. The small, cheap generator is already a reality for its inventor. The machine that would make the analysing of soil available to subsistence farmers is in its development stage.

And CINC, which started as an idea from 3rd-year university students will present the second round of awards to African innovators in October next year.

Some of the delegates to the Benin youth innovation fair visited the offices of CINC in Cotonou, Benin, to share ideas. And one of the organisers, Pape Samb of Phelps Stokes, says the successes of CINC are exactly the kind of inspiration that the fair wants to create:

“I think the reason that this project worked was that the initiative came from the youth. There was no big man behind the programme. Most times politicians or people with money are afraid of falling in behind the youth. These are young, innocent people. They were not a threat to anyone … they were either going to succeed or fail with the idea and hard work got them where they are now.

“They were very persistent and that is one of the assets the youth has. They used their ideas to change their lives. They went from being job-seekers to job providers.

“This project shows the delegates what the ideas that we are trying to get across at the Benin Youth Entrepreneurs Fair/Workshop. The idea of synergy, working with people and see anybody as a partner. Then there is sustainability and that is exactly what is happening here. They are building on a good idea, and success that breeds more success.”

Barbara Macon says she never expected CINC to touch the lives of so many people. “But now we speak to ministers, we are constantly building our network and as time goes by we are able to do more for the innovators of Africa.

“We are really proud of what we have done.”



Article by Tinus de Jager, originally published in Terraviva/IPS Africa

For more information about the international Youth Entrepreneurs Fair held in Benin click here

Last modified on Friday, 18 November 2011 23:30

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