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Idélaboratoriet is a consulting company specializing in creativity and innovation. Idélaboratoriet was founded in 2000.

Idélaboratoriet works in the field of creativity and innovation. We create value for our clients for example through innovation strategy planning, facilitation of creative processes, training programs in professional idea creation and implementation of digital idea management solutions.

Idélaboratoriet is Swedish for The Idea Lab.

Idélaboratoriet was founded in Sweden and has its headquarters in Malmö in southern Sweden, but works with clients worldwide.

Idélaboratoriet likes to say that creativity is a process of getting original ideas that have some sort of value and innovation is the profitable implementation of creativity.

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#41 Africa – the New Innovation Frontier?

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The Serious Innovation Newsletter  

Sometimes it is easier to start innovating with a blank piece of paper. Too start from scratch. With no company history, no slow moving decision-making structures, no bureaucracy in place. Numerous flexible and fast moving start-ups have been beating the big giants in the company world. Is the same thing happening within the area of nations or continents? Can countries that have no infrastructure in areas like telecom and banking, leapfrog into the newest technology without any strings to the past? Can Africa become a new innovation frontier? The answer is yes. It is already happening.

The Test Bed of Mobile Banking
In the world of innovation we are often talking about how hard it is for big organizations to keep up with small entrepreneurial units that eats creativity for breakfast. Is this also true for continents and countries? Is the US losing its innovative edge to Korea? Is Italy losing its entrepreneurial spirit to Chinese SMEs? We cannot be sure. But in some areas this shift is already happening. When it comes to mobile payments the most innovative solutions are being used right now in Africa. Africa has taken the opportunity to capture and blend markets that the more developed markets have already established and made stiff. The banking industry in Africa, where many of the consumers don’t have a bank account or any experience in banking service, will look completely different in Africa. The bank is not a building. It is a mobile phone. Africa makes an innovation journey from a pre-financial world and a pre-banking world to one where they can embrace the latest mobile banking solutions available in the world. Africa is rapidly becoming the envy of the world for its ability to innovate in mobile. Mobile payment is the most visible example of that today with mobile money products such as Kenya’s M-Pesa, which is rolling out in other countries like Afghanistan and potentially into India. The telecom operators like MTN, Millicom and Bharti, who are fighting tough wars around the globe delivering basic services like bandwidth, are seeing new possibilities and value positions that are not available for them anywhere else. The telecom manufacturers like Ericsson have their latest innovations being tried out on a continent that has been last in adopting almost all other technological advancements. The gigantic market of the smartphone being your new wallet is being developed in Mr. Kurtz’s old territory. He knew? Mr. Kurtz probably did not.

Is Africa becoming a Dominating Player? No.
So is Africa a new innovation frontier? The answer is both Yes and No. As the Nigerian-American journalist and author of The Bright Continent, Dayo Olopade said:
– There are ways of doing more with less that are very organic to the African ecosystem, and I think in general in the 21st century there’s a very important recognition that we need to all do more with less, and where better to look that the place that has been doing this for centuries? In a fat economy, a bicycle is just a bicycle, or a cell phone is just a cell phone; in a lean economy, I’ve seen men in Kenya making phone chargers using their bicycles, where it’s double use. Where electricity goes out and you have a cell phone that’s out of juice, you can then plug your cell phone into a bike and peddle away and also charge your phone, said Olopade. And that is of course a strength that Africa has together with for example India. Innovation in low cost products will probably be something that Africa can excel in. But there is still the foreign companies that come with their innovation and try them out in Africa, rather than the Africans themselves inventing products to sell to the world. The infrastructure as a whole is still too weak, and the education level too low. As a Kenyan student of ours at Hyper Island in Manchester, Emukule Ekirapa, said:
– In Africa we are good at being good at one thing. For example, in my country Kenya we have world-class runners, but that is the only sport we are good at. Also we don’t have any Kenyan mangers for our runners. We are only running. We need to create systems to better manage what we are good at, and at the same time work on our blind spots. The drive and the energy is there, add some more system thinking and the possibilities will be endless, said Ekirapa. There is a need of a structure and leadership. But when the innovation basics are in place, Africa will be a continent to look out for. Not only when it comes to mobile banking in Kenya: “South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania have developed some local capacity in the engineering sciences, especially metallurgical and mining engineering, chemistry and chemical engineering, and physics (including nuclear physics and astrophysics)” according to a 2010 innovation report by SIDA.

Keep your eyes open to the South. Because if you can make it work in Africa, you can make it work anywhere.


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