Conventional approaches tend to address Africa’s unmet needs in education, energy, health care, clean water, or food access and nutrition by making big plans for meeting those needs through direct public investments (often through aid and public debt). The most recent of these plans is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The goals are worthy, but progress is painfully slow. As one who is familiar with both the developed and developing world, sustainable wealth creation and poverty prevention cannot result from isolated investments through aid. No society has ended poverty through plans and aid.
Like many others, I argue that public spending through centralized plans backed by aid is a sub-optimal strategy for tackling global poverty. Scientific, technological innovation and a market-based approach can help re-frame the debate on poverty reduction more in terms of creating and enabling business opportunity and less in terms of hand-outs. A successful science, technology and market-based approach would catalyze significant new private and public investments and stimulate participation of hundreds of millions of Africa’s people.
Technology advancement and market-based solutions must be driven by research and innovation that seeks to solve the most critical problems that continue to stymie sustainable social transformation for 75 % of Africa’s circa 1 billion people. The search for these solutions must: i) stimulate collaboration among public and private (industry, finance) institutions, schools, universities, research institutions and local communities; ii) have a scientific evidence base of what works where and why; iii) co-create technology, innovation and markets as well as entrepreneurship around the most critical unmet needs of the majority.