Kingsley Ify on Innovation in Africa and the growing Nordic-Africa relationship

Kingsley Ify is the co-founder of Springboard Afro-Nordic Business Platform, which has positioned itself to help bridge the business and innovation gap between Africa and the Nordic region, and build new partnerships. Based in Helsinki, Finland, its 2017 African Nordic Business under the banner of Africa Innovates aims to help both regions foster a robust trade and business relationship. Ify explains why this is the right time for Africa and the Nordic region to develop an innovative partnership for the future.

The Nerve Africa: Why did you create the African Nordic Business Platform?

Kingsley Ify: There is a huge trade deficit between Africa and the Nordics and Springboard finds it imperative to invigorate trade links between the two regions. At the same time, as an African currently based in Finland, I often ask myself how I can contribute to the development of the continent? And what better way to do that than through business.

What are the benefits of a platform like yours to both regions?

Kingsley Ify: Our platform is a perfect setting for leveraging the potential for an African-Nordic Business exchange to take place. Inspiring experiences and insights about doing business in Africa is elementary in activating Nordic appetite for this business exchange. With Africa’s young, well-educated and upwardly mobile growing population, the African continent will be crucial for a range of new enterprises that will generate strong growth, which only a few other parts of the world can rival. Through the Springboard African-Nordic Business Platform, we want to stress the importance of building long-lasting and robust partnerships as the key to developing sustainable business.

What excites you about Africa Innovates and the idea of bringing the Nordic region to the business table with Africa?

Kingsley Ify: Finns/Nordics are globally known for pioneering new, innovative ways of solving problems and this is exactly what we are passionate about promoting. On the other hand, learning about the wave of new innovations springing up from Africa, is very encouraging and there is no better time to facilitate business action between both regions.

Africa Innovates, you inaugural conference focuses on innovation. Why focus on innovation and what do you think both regions can achieve on the innovative frontier if they successfully combine forces and resources?

Kingsley Ify: This means new opportunities for business and skills development between the regions. For me, innovation is about finding new and simple ways of solving complex problems with less resource. When two regions such as Africa and the Nordics combine efforts to innovate, I think something unique can be created. Business is about solving problems and creating new business opportunities. I believe this is what will be the outcome of such cross-boarder innovative exchange between the two regions.

Africa is much bigger than the Nordic region, given your experience of both worlds, what has the Nordic region got to offer the Africa and what can it learn from the continent at the same time?

Kingsley Ify: Partnering with Nordic players offers clear benefits in increasing trade opportunities. Looking at mega-trends impacting education globally – digitalisation and globalisation, one can ask, “what is the future of education?” Easy to say the Nordics have a lot to offer Africa in terms of education but at the same time, there are many innovations in Africa that the Nordics can also learn from. Africa has leapfrogged over laptops and gone straight to mobile technologies in many areas, including education. These are fantastic innovations, which could also be used in Nordic schools.

Equally, what can the continent learn from the Nordic region when it comes to doing business and innovation?

Kingsley Ify: In my understanding, African businesses should pay attention to ethics and sustainability. These are qualities that characterise the Nordics and has made them unique and competitive locally and globally.

What does the business environment in Africa give you, which you don’t get in Europe and other parts of the world that you are keen to introduce to the Nordic region?

Kingsley Ify: The business environment in many African countries, gives you a unique opportunity that doesn’t exist in many other developing economies. It is an opportunity to develop innovations that are specific to a market. This means that you can tailor your innovations to an untapped market with no stiff competition.

The topics covered by Africa Innovates include health, infrastructure, business and tech, with innovation serving as the thread that brings them all together. In what ways would you like to see participants take the lessons and message back to their respective countries and run with it?

Kingsley Ify: This will lead to a new understanding for many of the Nordic delegates about what is currently taking place in Africa in the business and innovation sphere. For the African delegates, this is a great opportunity to learn about the Nordic region – their way of doing business and about the values that has made them a global player. Delegates looking for cross-boarder business exchange will definitely learn more about what is on offer and how they can forge business partnerships. This is a starting point that creates a setting for new partnerships and the opportunity to learn and benefit from people, who come from the opposite side of the world.

What do you find exciting about the innovation space across the sub-Saharan African continent?

Kingsley Ify: The fact that there are more and more young people with great appetite for innovation across the continent gives me hope about what is possible.