pan-African Digital Assembly (#pADA) – African innovation communities and political leaders join forces on continental Action Agenda for Covid-19 Response and Recovery


“Our societies are only as strong as our ability to care for each other”, says the Open Letter on Covid-19 from the Africa Innovation Policy Task Force.

This letter activated over 200 African innovation leaders from across over 48 countries to call for collective action and organize the pan-African Digital Assembly (#pADA). The pADA, a three-day virtual forum from May 13-15, combined bottom-up policy co-creation – through a continental entrepreneurs forum involving over 420 entrepreneurs working across multiple thematic rooms with trained facilitators from 48 countries – and high-level panel discussions among health experts and  political, cultural and innovation leaders.

The #pADA also served as the launchpad for a preliminary report on the impact of the pandemic on African businesses and was the culmination of a month-long campaign, #Dontgoviral, that activated artists from 40 countries to crowd-source content to combat misinformation about the pandemic.

An Alarming Report on the Impact of Covid-19 on SMEs

“Africa could take a Generation to Recover”. The results of the continent-wide preliminary report on SMEs elaborated by the Innovation for Policy Foundation seem to confirm this warning of H.E Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. The study, covering over 500 businesses and 150+ Community Innovation Hubs from 46 African countries, found that 44% of entrepreneurs and 39% of ESOs are at risk of failure or bankruptcy in the next 3 months. Seventy-four percent are losing revenue as a result of the pandemic, 89% need capital support to stay in business, and MSMEs expect, on average, an 18% reduction in employees from January to May 2020. These challenges and others signal serious implications for unemployment and economic stability which require a strategic and timely response from African governments.

The pan-African Digital Assembly on Covid-19

“To survive this crisis, to rebuild our societies, and to safeguard our communities in its aftermath will demand that we unlock our collective problem-solving potential, our resources, and our shared humanity” – In response to  this  call  to action from African innovation leaders, the Innovation for Policy Foundation (i4Policy), in partnership with UNESCO, Facebook, GIZ Make IT, Enabel, AFD, Afrilabs, Africa’s Business Heroes, Briter Bridges and Digital Africa and more than 200 community partners from 48 countries, organized the pan-African Digital Assembly. The virtual forum resulted in more than 50,000 engagements during the three day event.

Crowdsourcing Local Content to Combat the Pandemic

To crown it all, the #pADA announced the winners of the first round of prizes of the #DontGoViral campaign, an initiative  that  involved 500+  African  artists  to  combat  the  infodemic,-the  pandemic of  misinformation, disinformation and lack of information., launched together with UNESCO to inform communities and to build social cohesion. The campaign reached over 130M people on social media, with a dedicated session during the #pADA attended live by 23000+ viewers. i4Policy and UNESCO launched a second round of awards to keep crowdsourcing content throughout May and June 2020.

An Action Agenda on Response & Recovery

“If countries come together, plan together, act together, [they are] more likely to address the outbreak efficiently than if they are working on their own” – Dr. Ogwell Ouma, Deputy Director of  the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

The results of the #pADA. including the insights from the panel discussions, the solutions provided during the Entrepreneurs Forum and the data emerging from the SMEs study, will be consolidated by innovation hub
managers, policy experts and political leaders into a Joint Action Agenda for Covid-19 Response and Recovery.

The first version of the Action Agenda will be released in mid-June 2020 and hosted on an online consultation platform to receive feedback at scale.

Panel Discussions of the #pADA:

  • Opening keynotes by Mr. Lacina Kone, Director General of Smart Africa. Watch this session
  • Reviewing the Impact of Covid-19 on Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Stephan-Eloise Gras – Digital Africa, Christian Jekinnou Fanaka and Afric’innov, Kizito Okechukwu-GEN Africa and 22onSloane, Nekesa Were – Interim Executive Director, Afrilabs. Watch this session
  • How to support African SMEs? Bogolo Kenewendo – Former Minister Investment Trade and Industry of Botswana, Rene Parker – Director of rLabs Foundation, Erick Yong – CEO of GreenTec Capital. Watch this session
  • The role of the International Community: Jean Van Wetter – Executive Director of Enabel
  • Fireside Chat with Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma: Deputy Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – Watch this session
  • Fireside Chat With H.E Kamissa Camara: Minister of Digital Economy and Planning, Mali. Watch this session
  • #DontGoViral: Crowdsourcing Content to Combat the Infodemic:  Bobi Wine – Musician & MP of Uganda, Lulu Diva – Musician , Jocelyne Muhutu-Remy – Strategic Media Partnerships at Facebook, Dr Shakira Choonara – Woman of the Year in Health 2017.Watch this session
  • Role of Youth & Innovation in our Response and Recovery – H.E. Dr David Sengeh,  Chief Innovation Officer & Minister of Education of Sierra Leone, Julie Owono – Internet Sans Frontières, Jean Philbert Nsengimana – Idex Africa & former Minister of ICT OF Rwanda. Watch this session
  • Senegal Startup Act – Interview with H.E Papa Amadou Sarr – Ministry Delegate to Rapid Entrepreneurship of Senegal . Watch This Session

About i4policy:

The Innovation for Policy Foundation (i4Policy) supports public policy co-creation at scale. The Foundation has developed a new ontology of policy-making, pioneering new technologies for collective decision-making. The Foundation has facilitated policy reform processes to accelerate entrepreneurship in more than a dozen countries across Africa. Our team has trained government and ecosystem leaders in more than 20 countries, and supported a movement of more than 170 innovation hubs in 45 African countries to co-create an authentic and inclusive vision for digital transformation, the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto. The Open source software developed by the Foundation has been deployed by the governments of Botswana, Senegal, Mali, Morocco and Nigeria, and our methodologies are setting a new standard for effective policy-making.