"We are pleased to open the launch of the Accelerator Lab, which is a UNDP initiative with the aims of improving the development sector in the country, working very closely with the community and its local inventors, thus creating local solutions for their needs."
And so it began, the opening of the Accelerator Lab by the Bissau-Guinean band Tabanka Djaz, on December 9th, which took place at the Hotel CEIBA in Bissau with a limited number of participants due to COVID-19 restrictions. The event had a hybrid structure, physical and virtual, to reach the widest possible audience. Tabanka Djaz, a very popular band, with a wide range of influence in the country and the diaspora, it was therefore imperative to have them open the event and attract their audience and increase the visibility of the Lab. The Lab’s initiative is supported by two main investors; the Federal Republic of Germany, through the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the State of Qatar, through the Qatar Development Fund.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suzy Carla Barbosa, gave a brief speech welcoming the Accelerator Lab and praising the UNDP initiative, followed by Tjark Egenhoff, UNDP Resident Representative in Guinea-Bissau, who delved into the global network's background, stressed the urgent need to rethink development for the 21st century. The German Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Stephan Röken sent a video message congratulating UNDP for being one of the most recent to join the global network of Accelerator Labs. The Ambassador also spoke about the strong cooperation between Germany and UNDP and the importance of the global community going beyond “business as usual”, accelerating efforts, and supporting innovation in this sense, because based on current trends, we are still very far from achieving the goals of the SDG Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals). After the opening, there was a brief presentation by the Accelerator Lab team, where the frontier challenge was discussed, which has been identified as "the lack of basic and quality services" in the case of the Lab in Guinea-Bissau, and its main focus. Take a look at the documentary video about Guinea-Bissau Accelerator Lab here.
Panel: What is the need for innovation in Guinea-Bissau?
After the presentations, an innovation panel was moderated by the Resident Representative accompanied by Magda Robalo, High Commissioner for COVID-19 in Guinea-Bissau, José Carlos Varela Casimiro, Secretary of State for Budget and Nadine Perrault, UNICEF Representative. The panel introduced an interesting discussion around the need for innovation in Guinea-Bissau, asking the speakers “what are the ways that we can leverage innovation for development in the country?”. Some responses included, new investment opportunities in innovation for development in the regions of Guinea-Bissau, as well as forging a connection with the government for more sustainable development. The panel's questions were not limited to the speakers, the guests in the audience were also encouraged to contribute their ideas. One of the participants, Ricardo Cá, winner of the African Salon of Invention and Technological Innovation award, spoke about his innovation, the cashew nut peeling machine, which works without electricity, only on pedals and with the ability to produce up to 15 kilograms of clean cashew nut per hour. The second participant, Domingos da Silva, also known as “Kasacou”, spoke about his invention of the recycling area, which consists of recycling glass bottles and making them into building blocks.
Introducing the "Solutions Mapping" approach
During the event, a new approach from the Lab was also presented, focussing on the mapping of solutions, seeking innovative localized solutions to understand local needs. The people directly affected by the problem are the ones who create these basic innovations, it is not really a single solution, but the need that these solutions try to address, since Governments and NGOs do not always understand the complexities of local limitations. The event united this ecosystem, consisting of Ricardo Cá and Domingos da Silva ”Kasacou” among other innovators and grassroots organizations, and included them in the discussion, in order to highlight their solutions, but also their challenges faced on the ground.
The next steps for the Accelerator Lab
One of the main objectives of the Lab is to map existing solutions, through interactions with communities where the Accelerator Lab team will be able to raise a dialogue with grassroots innovators and other innovators who generally fall outside UNDP's radar. The next steps for the Accelerator Lab include producing a six-week workplan, through which the team will develop strategies and ways to engage with the frontier challenge. The importance of narrowing the frontier challenge lies in the understanding that, although challenges can be resolved in collaboration with the community, many limitations already have solutions in place. These existing solutions need to be mapped and it’s intricacies understood, to see what works and what does not work, in order to introduce new solutions.
The launch of the Accelerator Lab was very important to introduce the initiative to Guinea-Bissau. It was also an opportunity to have face-to-face interactions, to build synergies with future partners and involve local innovators and grassroots initiatives for the future functioning of the Lab. The event was recorded and broadcasted live to those interested, in the diaspora, as well as to those in the country who were unable to attend due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The event has had over 600 streams on Zoom and Facebook, broadcast the full event here; and give us your opinion or collaborate with us through a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, if you know any Guinean innovators in the country or in the diaspora, please enter their details using this form.