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In a move marking a significant milestone for cross-continental technological cooperation, Cape Town played host to the grand inauguration of the ENRICH in Africa (EiA) Centre. This initiative, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 project, symbolises the convergence of African and European innovation ecosystems, with the goal to drive a new era of mutually beneficial technological growth.
The launch was a grand spectacle and included a gamut of influential attendees from both sides of the equator. The roster included EU and AU dignitaries, prominent figures from innovation ecosystems, start-ups, corporations, and policy makers. The highlight of the event was the ceremonial unveiling of the EiA Centre plaque and the symbolic red-ribbon cutting, which marked the official opening of the venue.
Christophe Viarnaud, the CEO of the Methys Group in South Africa, addressed the audience, encapsulating the spirit of the occasion. He said, “Together with 12 partners and the support of the EU Commission, we have worked relentlessly over the past two and a half years to scale the ENRICH in Africa project into a centre to increase collaboration and partnerships between key stakeholders in the European and African tech and innovation ecosystems.”
The EiA Centre’s establishment is driven by the key mission of strengthening the collaboration between the European and Africa’s tech and innovation ecosystems.
With coordination from the German company Steinbeis 2i, the centre aims to provide a powerful nexus, a meeting point for innovators, incubators, accelerators, investors, and policymakers. The shared vision? To foster a progressive environment that encourages innovation, enables positive social impact, and champions green business models.
At the helm of the centre’s operation, Zandile Ntuli, an experienced innovator in the petroleum industry, has been appointed as the EiA centre manager.
Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering and currently completing a Master’s in business administration degree, Ntuli brings an infusion of experience and passion for technology and innovation to the centre. She expresses her mission “to grow the EiA Centre network in order to foster growth between African and European innovators.”
The opening address of the event was delivered by the European Commission director for global approach and international cooperation in research and innovation, Maria Cristina Russo.
Russo emphasised the significance of the launch and the importance of collaborative innovation. She said, “European and African innovators need to collaborate to find new, common solutions to solve difficult challenges that the world is facing, which have no borders. The new-born EiA Centre provides an unprecedented, tangible opportunity to do so and majorly contribute to the upcoming implementation of the brand-new AU-EU Innovation Agenda.”
This sentiment was echoed by Daan du Toit, deputy director-general for international cooperation and resources at the South African department of science and innovation. He reinforced the power of partnerships and collaboration in the creation of innovative solutions to combat global challenges. He highlighted that partnerships are critical instruments of progress and cannot be taken for granted.
Further adding to the enthusiasm was the EU ambassador to South Africa, Sandra Kramer, who emphasised the importance of forming solid connections between Europe and Africa. These connections, as she suggested, are instrumental in advancing each region’s capacity to build bridges that are mutually beneficial and promote progress in various fields, including technology and innovation.
The launch also featured a notable segment that underlined the vibrancy of the South African innovation ecosystem. A meet-and-greet session highlighted women-led and woman-owned research and innovation initiatives from South Africa, symbolising the EiA Centre’s commitment to inclusivity and equality. The initiatives presented were testament to the innovation capacity of the region, underscoring the opportunities for collaboration and cross-continental growth.
By fostering innovation and promoting collaboration, the EiA Centre is poised to serve as a beacon for shared vision between Europe and Africa. It will play a crucial role in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges and driving sustainable growth in both continents.
The EiA Centre symbolises a new era of cross-continental cooperation and progress, setting a precedent for how two distinct regions can come together to leverage their unique strengths in the pursuit of a common goal.