Powering African innovation for health and economic growth

May 1, 2017 by PATH

Leaders convene ahead of the World Economic Forum on Africa to accelerate investment in African-led innovation


  • Kate Davidson | PATH Media Relations | media@path.org
  • Tanisha Ramshai | Meropa Communications | tanishar@meropa.co.za | +27834390350
  • Luyanda Majija | Meropa Communications | luyandam@meropa.co.za | +27786262296

Durban, South Africa, 2 May 2017—African and global leaders representing governments, the private sector, and civil society met today in Durban, South Africa, to discuss health innovation and research capacity in Africa. The event focused on the need for additional investments in science, technology, and innovation in Africa to improve health, spur economic growth, and reduce poverty across the continent.

The meeting highlighted promising initiatives and aimed to foster new partnerships and drive investments that will strengthen Africa's role as a major player in global health technology development and innovation. It included several calls to action by meeting participants to support African-led innovation coalitions and innovative funding platforms. At the event, Biovac announced a new partnership with PATH to develop a novel vaccine against Group B Streptococcus, which disproportionately kills and debilitates African infants.

PATH, an international nongovernmental organization that accelerates innovation to save lives and improve health, together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LeapFrog Investments, New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Agency, and the Wellcome Trust convened the Innovation Effect Africa conference. High-level representatives from groups across Africa and the globe attended the event, which preceded the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017.

Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius and an internationally renowned biodiversity scientist, delivered the keynote address. "Africa's future depends on its scientists," said President Gurib-Fakim. "Africa urgently needs science, technology, and innovation to secure a prosperous, healthy, peaceful, and sustainable future."

Her Excellency Grace Naledi Pandor, the South African Minister of Science and Technology, welcomed participants to the meeting. "South Africa has increased its investments in health research because we believe that a stronger innovation ecosystem will deliver improved health outcomes as well as boost economic growth and create jobs," she said.

Also speaking at the event was Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, the chief executive officer of the NEPAD Agency. "To be successful, Africa needs to unlock the potential of our innovators," said Mayaki. "Given our young and driven population, Africa has the key ingredients needed to shape our destiny. But we need to build strong innovation ecosystems to support the development and scale-up of solutions to Africa's challenges."

Several speakers highlighted needs and opportunities for further investment to support local entrepreneurs and innovators.

"New funding is opening up opportunities for health innovation across Africa," said Dr. Felix Olale, LeapFrog partner and global coleader for health investments. "Through a combination of government-endorsed plans for science and technology, and financing by private investors and multinational donors, a sustainable landscape for research and health care can be established. This approach will over the long term, deliver true community-based social and economic benefits."

The event also highlighted a number of recent examples of how African scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators are meeting local health challenges and contributing to economic development. These included:

Steve Davis, PATH's president and chief executive officer, explained why PATH and its partners convened this event now: "This event comes at a critical time to advance innovation in Africa. African entrepreneurship and research capacity is expanding rapidly in game-changing ways. The growing expertise of Africa's innovators and their exciting innovation pipeline will have a huge future impact on health and economic growth in Africa and across the globe."

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org.

About LeapFrog Investments

LeapFrog invests in extraordinary businesses in Africa and Asia. We partner with their leaders to achieve leaps of growth, profitability and impact. LeapFrog companies now operate across 23 markets and reach 91.1 million people. Over 74.1 million are emerging consumers, often accessing insurance, savings, pensions, credit or health care for the first time. Learn more at www.leapfroginvest.com,


NEPAD Agency is the technical body of the African Union. The core mandate of the NEPAD Agency is to facilitate and coordinate the implementation of regional and continental priority programmes and projects and to push for partnerships, resource mobilisation, research and knowledge management. Through NEPAD African countries are provided unique opportunities to take full control of their development agenda, to work more closely together, and to cooperate more effectively with international partners. Learn more at www.nepad.org.

About Wellcome Trust

Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We're a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate. Learn more at www.wellcome.ac.uk.