The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on April 20, 2024. Register Here

Close this search box.

What Would It Take to Achieve an Innovative Tanzania?

Experts and innovators agree that people’s ability to think beyond their imagination is essential to creating a more innovative society.

subscribe to our newsletter!

Dar es Salaam. It was revealed on Saturday that the first step Tanzania needs to take as a nation to achieve its ambitions to become more innovative is for its people to embrace the attitude of imagining a possible new world beyond the mental and physical boundaries they are confined to.

Innovators, entrepreneurs and actors working in the East African nation’s innovation ecosystem were almost unanimous in their conclusion during a discussion to reflect on the future of digitisation in the country that an innovative Tanzania will be difficult to achieve if Tanzanians do not dare to try things that others may find nonsensical.

They spoke during Digital Freedom and Innovation Day, which The Chanzo organised to foster conversation about the relationship between freedom and innovation. The event coincided with the global commemoration of World Creativity and Innovation Day, celebrated on  April 21st every year.

The speakers, who engaged in a candid conversation with participants drawn from a wide array of sectors, including higher learning institutions, made it abundantly clear that while policies and relevant skills matter a lot in spurring digital innovation, the efforts will be futile if you’ve people who do not try to innovate and come up with new things.

Gloria Anderson, whose Tanzania Enlightenment Development Innovations (TEDI) seeks to change Tanzania’s innovation status by re-examining how students from that nation learn, said that to achieve any substantial change in the status quo, which she describes as unsatisfying, efforts will be needed in transforming how people in the country think.

READ MORE: Business Leaders Pledge Innovation, Collaboration in Driving Tanzania’s Digital Future

“We have been very good at underestimating ourselves and therefore our capability to innovate,” Ms Anderson, whose organisation works mainly with students in schools and universities, said. “It’s a mindset created by the environment in which we operate and has created some boundaries in our minds. We need to get rid of those boundaries.”

In 2023, Tanzania ranked 113 among 132 examined economies worldwide by the Global Innovation Index, a global ranking of innovation performance published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN).

The ranking measures innovation based on criteria that include institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, credit, investment, and linkages; the creation, absorption and diffusion of knowledge; and creative outputs.

Ng’winula Kingamkono, who founded Tunzaa, an app that enables people to save to buy products by paying in advance and in instalments, thinks that people’s disposition to innovate should precede any policy aimed to foster innovation, noting that technology moves faster than any process to formulate any public policy.

“A lot have been invented, but a lot haven’t,” Kingamkono, whose Ellipsis Digital offers several software solutions to clients, said during the panel discussion. “And to invent, we need to imagine. A very thin line distinguishes an inventor from a mad person.”

READ MORE: #YoungBold&Digital: Tunzaa, the next African Tech Unicorn

“Yes, you need people who believe they can bring things into the world that currently do not exist,” he added. “That borders insanity, I know, but its a fact. It involves imagining a world beyond our eyes and thoughts, and I think that’s what matters most to spur innovation anywhere, not just in Tanzania.”

Discussants believed that as a poor country struggling with several challenges, Tanzania is the best place to innovate, urging people, especially young men and women, across the country to scratch their heads and develop solutions to alleviate the pain Tanzanians currently suffer in various sectors.

Dr Mahadia Tunga, a data scientist and software developer whose Tanzania Data Lab (dLab) harnesses the potential of the data revolution in Tanzania, believes that allowing people outside Tanzania to develop tools that solve Tanzanians’ problems is unacceptable.

“We have to stop importing others’ technologies to solve our problems,” Dr Tunga, who also teaches computer science and engineering at the University of Dar es Salaam, said during the discussion. 

READ MORE: Why TCAA’s Prohibitive Fee on Drone Training Risks Hindering Technological Innovation

“As long as we think, we can innovate, and my challenge to everyone here is to look around and identify one challenge and think how you can contribute to its solution,” she added. “That’s innovation.”

Digital Freedom and Innovation Day
The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on Saturday April 20, 2024 at Makumbusho ya Taifa.

Register to secure your spot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *