Bobab - a new social enterprise
Dedicated to connecting science and technology professionals working in and for Africa
Having worked for an international charity promoting science and tech in Africa for nearly a decade, I’ve hosted dozens of policy and advocacy events over the years, convening hundreds of participants on diverse issues ranging from space science and non-communicable diseases to agribusiness and renewable energy. I’ve seen time and again that amazing things can happen when you bring passionate people together.
But if I’m honest, it always felt a bit like dumb luck when a genuinely impactful connection was made.
That’s why a couple of years ago, when I was hosting a big un-conference in London promoting STEM education in Africa, we tried to give a bit more structure to those serendipitous meetings that happen during coffee breaks or in the lunch queue.
At the start of the day we asked all of the 250+ participants to fill out cards explaining who they were, what they did, what they offered to the community and what they needed from it to enhance their work. When they were done, people pinned their cards to a wall at the back of the room.
To our surprise and pleasure, every one of the attendees got involved and many spent the rest of the day happily tracking down the owners of the cards they wanted to connect with. You couldn’t help but feel the energy and excitement in the room as people from all sorts of backgrounds – business, academia, NGOs and policy – made meaningful connections around things that really mattered to them. And that got me thinking: How could we scale what we did in that conference room in London? How could we capture that energy, enthusiasm and passion?
And that’s how Bobab was born.
Bobab is a new social enterprise dedicated to connecting science and technology professionals working in and for Africa, hosting innovative live streamed events, promoting exciting projects on our interactive map and connecting a global community of people passionate about Africa via our online platform.
Our vision is for an economically, environmentally and socially prosperous Africa, transformed by science and technology in one generation. The challenge remains clear with both the World Bank and UNESCO reporting less than 25% of school students studying STEM subjects and for those that do, a 90% unemployment rate amongst graduates.
We want to see science, tech and innovation fully embedded in governmental policies and priorities; we want to see properly resourced educational institutions able to train and keep brilliant scientists on the continent; we want an inspiring generation of innovators to have the tools they need to realise their potential; and we want to see African challenges and opportunities addressed and realised using African-led solutions.
And our mission, in working to achieve that vision, is to connect experts, accelerating scientific and technological collaboration in Africa and spotlighting the best commercial, academic and charitable innovators leading the transformations we seek.
And how do we plan to do it? There are three main areas of our work:
- We IDENTIFY – we search for exciting innovations, collaborate with technology pioneers and partner with cutting-edge organisations, scanning the horizon for the challenges and opportunities shaping Africa today and those that will shape the continent in the future
- We EXPLORE – At our events and via our global online community we bring together experts from around the world to promote great science, technology and innovation, explore challenges and opportunities in new ways, shine a light on cutting-edge innovation and find long-lasting, impactful solutions
- We CONNECT – we support exciting partnerships, promote great projects on our interactive map and make it easy for the people and organisations driving science, technology and innovation across Africa to build meaningful connections based around what’s important to them.
And why do we want to do this?
Because, despite improvements, African countries are still falling behind in the race for science and technology; because Africa faces the most acute development challenges in the world and these issues are being compounded by rapid climate change; because African countries already have the youngest populations in the world, and they’re growing fast; because weak educational infrastructure and poorly resourced universities cannot currently provide the quantity or quality of graduates the continent needs; because we know the technology already exists, and in some parts of the continent is already being applied, that can drive the science and tech revolution we seek; and because, in the face of all these challenges, we know that Africa remains a hotbed of innovation.
It’s clear that it is not a lack of hard-work, ambition or a lack of self-reliance that limits development in Africa, and the energy and dynamism of the continents human capital is ready to be mobilised.
We’ve taken our inspiration from the baobab tree, which for thousands of years has been a traditional gathering place across Africa, where communities have come together to share resources, tell stories, connect, exchange knowledge and make important decisions. Today, Bobab is the digital gathering place where our global science and tech community – made up of professionals and experts passionate about Africa – come together to share, connect and take action.
It’s our sincere hope that anyone passionate about science-led development in Africa, wherever they are in the world, will find a happy home on Bobab. And just as we did with the participants at the un-conference in London, together we can harness that power, energy and excitement to help drive meaningful connections and meaningful change for Africa.