Earlier this year, I visited Uganda's National ICT Innovation Hub to learn about efforts being made to build the start-up ecosystem in the East African nation. What I witnessed was a flourishing, albeit nascent, environment of ambitious innovators and entrepreneurs who were driven by a desire to create indigenous technological solutions to solve Uganda’s problems.
While they lack neither the will, nor the skill, what was apparent to me was the lack of funding, mentorship and digital architectural support are big roadblocks to their success. This, not handouts, would be the best passport out of poverty for many.
The start-up ecosystem I witnessed in Uganda reminded me of India in the early 2000s, where ambitions were limitless, but means to achieve them restricted. Since then, with an institutional, infrastructural and incentive-led impetus, India has emerged as the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world. This would not have been possible had it not been backed by a dynamic and vibrant funding culture.
Uganda, like several other emerging economies, have extremely talented and tenacious young populations who are optimistic about their future, deeply aspirational and keen to harness technology for the betterment of their communities. Providing institutional support and funding mechanisms to keep this dream alive should be the responsibility of the global community.
Indeed, this is where one of the biggest opportunities for modern global partnerships lie, especially for India and the UAE. While China has focussed on physical infrastructure in the African continent, I believe India, UAE and like-minded partners can build the essential bridges between technology and talent.
India, renowned for its robust IT sector and thriving startup ecosystem, is well-positioned to provide mentorship and guidance to African entrepreneurs and innovators. The UAE, a hub for innovation and global connectivity, can serve as a bridge to the wider region. Its strategic location and supportive ecosystem can provide African startups with access to global markets and funding opportunities. Moreover, these partnerships can prioritise initiatives aimed at addressing challenges specific to emerging economies.
They also take on added significance in the context of the transformative potential of artificial intelligence. Indeed, artificial intelligence has emerged as the latest, and perhaps most potent, of technological advancements that could revolutionise the approach to solving global problems.
The declaration signed by 28 countries, including India and UAE, at the first ever AI Safety Summit in the UK details the transformative opportunities of AI to be used for good - and for all - in an inclusive manner, in areas such as health, education, food security, clean energy and climate. The declaration exemplifies my own belief and vision for modern global partnerships, that they must be inclusive and promote sustainable development for all.
Global partnerships will play a transformative role in addressing fundamental challenges in emerging economies. The combination of financial investments, knowledge sharing, and collaborative efforts can uplift communities and provide them with the resources and skills needed to realise their full potential.
To that end, through various India Global Forum initiatives and events such as the Founders and Funders Forum, WomenIN Leadership, Climate and Business Summit etc, IGF has been providing the platform to catalyse collaboration to bridge the technological and developmental divide between India, the Middle East, and Africa.
At IGF UAE 2022, India’s Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar aptly said the India-UAE relationship is ambitious because it's not limited by its bilateral possibilities, but will also make itself felt at the global level. India Global Forum will be the constant partner in that journey.
In moving forward, it is essential to break away from the patterns of the past where a few nations were the sole custodians of power and prosperity, as the rest watched from the shadows. Development and economic growth cannot be localised or monopolised. The Global South, which is home to three-quarters of the world's population, holds immense potential and is the very foundation upon which 21st-century global partnerships must be built.
- The author is the Founder and Chairman of India Global Forum. India Global Forum’s Middle East and Africa 2023: Unleashing Ambitions will be held from 26 – 29 Nov in Dubai. To know more, visit www.indiaglobalforum.com