Innovate UK KTN's Africa team recently hosted an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Innovation Media Series for Nigeria and Kenya highlighting some of the challenges faced by Women in Innovation. Both events had a fantastic panel, engaging conversations and great insights from all involved.

We want to define innovation and understand what this means in the local and national landscape. We want to expand awareness of diverse innovators, and we need to encourage dialogue. In order to do this we need to have conversations with the right people and we need help. Help from media, help from journalists, help from innovators, help from women. Women in Innovation. This ongoing quarterly webinar series is intended to explore insights, experiences and the impact of diversity and inclusion. It will enable an interactive platform for discussing and exchanging best practices, shared learnings, foster new ways of breaking the bias, and develop knowledge on EDI overall.

The events are designed around three key questions which will be aimed at media and diverse innovators:

  • What is innovation?
  • What is an innovator to you?
  • How can the media report on innovations/innovators in more inclusive and effective ways?

The Nigeria EDI Media Dialogue Webinar was our inaugural event in this series and launched on 29 March 2022.

We were delighted to be joined by panelists: Odunola Olabintan, Team Lead, The Health City; Oluwaseyi Ebenezer, Founder of Triple G Eco Revival Solutions; Obo Henshaw, Technical Advisor, Science and Innovation West Africa, FCDO; and Solène Anglaret – Project Manager, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Innovate UK KTN.

Sophie West, Regional Lead for Global Alliance, introduced the session and gave a background to the KTN Global Alliance Africa project, then Rachel Obike, Innovate UK gave an overview of EDI, Women in Innovation and Young Innovators programmes, and the commitment to diversity and inclusion in business innovation.

Solène chaired a panel session in which each member talked about their own experiences and asked ‘what type of challenges do women face in the innovation landscape’? Odunola Olabintan answered,

“A lot of people expect that women should take supporting roles. First off, people do not associate innovation with women. They believe women should take less intellectually challenging roles. I think the media has a huge role to play in representing us well.”

Only one percent of funding goes to women innovators, Solène indicated. She asked what more we could do to support women with this journey.

Obo Henshaw commented,

“Sometimes you find that there is a mismatch, sometimes you have funders or angel investors that are looking for people to fund but then the people are not investment ready, so my challenge back, would be to take as much advantage of opportunities that already exist for you to learn what it is that investors are looking for.”

Oluwaseyi was asked what success meant for her and how can the media help to celebrate women in this achievement. When presenting at a School, she described a very heartwarming personal moment where a young girl asked for her autograph. Oluwaseyi in turn asked for a photograph so she could remember the girl and her path into innovation. She was so happy, and that for me is success.

“When I was growing up, it was difficult for me to see a woman in the role of leadership, in the role of what I wanted to become. We see men in these cases so we just assume that it is male roles. So I want to make sure all the young girls see me as a role model.”

The discussion continued at the next event in Kenya on the 30 March 2022  with expert panel: Dr. Lizzy Mwamburi, Associate Professor, University of Eldoret; Njeri Maria, Founder, Njeri Maria Foundation; Timame Wanyoike, Partnerships and Ecosystems Manager Africa, Katapult VC; Magdalene Chepkemoi, Chairperson, Association of Countrywide Innovations; and Veronica Frincu, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Innovate UK KTN. 

What is an innovator to you? Dr Lizzy Mwamburi said,

“Innovation is about new ideas. An innovator changes, challenges and introduces improvements that often target small communities initially. It’s how our ancestors used to operate, targeting our own communities initially and then extending those changes to other communities.”

Magdalene Chepkemoi mentioned,

“There is a cultural perception that nursing and teaching is more ‘women friendly’, while technology and engineering is a man’s job, so education is really important – we need to teach children that you can be anything that you want to be.”

and continued to say,

“I want media to invite me to come and talk about my business, not just to talk about inclusion or to just fill a seat of a woman in the panel. Let it be about our expertise, highlighting what our potential, expertise, and what our businesses do .”

The events were a fantastic opportunity to start this discussion and we will be continuing with the media dialogues throughout the year. Both Nigeria and Kenya webinar recordings are featured below.

Nigeria: Women in Innovation Media Dialogue Webinar

Kenya: Women in Innovation Media Dialogue Webinar

The KTN Global Alliance Africa project is a six-year project funded by UK Aid through Innovate UK (GCRF) and FCDO.

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