On 28th February, Ms. Bjørg Sandkjæ, the Norwegian State Secretary met with the Nairobi-based Innovate Now
The meeting, which brought together Innovate Now’s leadership team and members of the start-up community, was hosted at the Embassy of Norway in Nairobi at a roundtable and aimed to further solidify Innovate Now as part of the Inclusive investment landscape.
The discussion was led by Bernard Chiira, the Director of Innovate Now. Bernard was accompanied by the Executive Director of Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa, Mrs Suparna Biswas, a long time champion of disability rights and assistive technology innovation in East Africa.
Demonstrating the impact of Innovate Now, alongside them stood a delegation of start-up founders from Innovate Now’s network, which included Riziki Source, Lugha Ishara, the Accessibility Institute and Vezavee.
The visit to Nairobi by the Norwegian State Secretary comes at the backdrop of the recently concluded Global Disability Summit 2022, where Norway launched a new strategy for promoting inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities in Norwegian development cooperation.
Ms. Bjørg Sandkjæ meeting with Innovate Now importantly signified Norway’s commitment to the new strategy, as a precursor of a soon to be announced partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Norway and the Global Disability Innovation Hub to promote digital assistive technology and entrepreneurship in Africa through Innovate Now.
The high-level discussion highlighted Innovate Now’s unique position in driving sustainable disability inclusion in Africa. Through assistive technology and entrepreneurship development, Innovate Now has shown how a combination of localized network support, capacity building and greater opportunities to test products, can lead to greater success for AT entrepreneurs.
Today, there are 1.2 billion persons with disabilities globally, with a majority – 80% – located in the global south. GDI Hub believes that an answer to this enormous unmet need is the creation of locally designed and produced assistive products that meet the needs of the local population. Unfortunately, both demand and supply in relation to assistive products is weak.
To tackle this global challenge, the need to drive more investment towards AT from the aid sector, private sector and from government is clear. AT ventures struggle to navigate a fragmented ecosystem to scale, yet the benefit of greater access to AT for adults and children with disabilities is astounding.
The new funding from NORAD in support of Innovate Now, will support accelerating digital AT ventures to market, fundraising efforts aimed at securing follow-on investment for accelerator graduates, as well as opportunities to co-fund accelerator activities. The funding will also support deepened cooperation between Norway, Kenya, and the UK through cooperation with Norwegian and UK accelerators, experts, and investors in the East African region to explore scope for cooperation on deal flow and follow-on investments for portfolio companies.
Written by Bernard Chiira, Director, Innovate Now and Kenya Representative, GDI Hub