‘Re:publica,’ Europe’s largest conference on digital and social issues is underway in Accra to provide a major boost for young people in science, technology and innovation across Africa.
This edition of re:publica, which is the first being held outside of Europe, dubbed ‘re:publica Accra,’ is also expected to serve as the launch-pad for closer collaboration between entrepreneurs and stakeholders in science, technology and innovation in Europe and Africa.
Mr. Christoph Retzlaff, German Ambassador to Ghana, said there was a need to build stronger bonds and bridges between Africa and Europe, noting that it was long overdue for a conference like re:publica to come to Africa, and particularly to Ghana.
“I am always astonished and surprised by the talent here; we have entrepreneurs, artists, scientists. There’s a lot of potential in this country and its long overdue that a conference as re:publica is coming to Africa,” he said.
He noted that too often people in Europe or Germany overlooked the new Africa with all the talent and aspiration and young people with their creative minds, which made re:publica’s first conference in Africa important.
“I am convinced that we really have to strengthen the partnership between Africa and Europe because the future of Africa is also the future of Europe,” he stated.
Mr. Retzlaff said in order for Ghana to boost its science, technology, innovation and ecosystem it had to focus on education which would get people to the level where they could start as entrepreneurs.
It would also allow innovators and entrepreneurs to develop their ideas, give them platforms to exchange with their counterparts in other parts of the world and provide the support they need to build their ideas.
Mr. Andreas Gebhard, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of re:publica, said the decision to hold the conference in Africa had involved considerations on development of technology ecosystem, internet freedoms, civil rights, public transportation for neighbouring countries as well as security.
He said Ghana was chosen from the two shortlisted countries, after visiting both countries we settled on Ghana.
He said Ghana’s technology and innovation ecosystem was very vibrant and magnetic and was growing, thus the reason it was important for those from Europe to get closer to the African tech community.
“It is a very young community here when you compare, in Germany, the average age of the Germans is 42 but the average age here in Ghana I think its 24 or 25… younger people can better adapt new technologies so we’re here also to learn,” he stated.
Mr. Gebhard said Africa was in the beginning of developing a digital society and it was now easy for players globally to work together on projects.
Mr Will Senyo, Chief Executive Officer of Impact Hub Accra and Accra Lead for re:publica Accra, noted that there had been significant growth in Ghana’s technology ecosystem that needed to be celebrated. Re:publica Accra was thus meant to shine a spotlight on those in Ghana who were taking the pioneering role to the sector forward.
“We felt that Accra needed to have that conversation as well. How young people move this city and the country forward using the power of technology. Outside of government, what can the youth do on their own to move this economy forward and is it possible to test ideas that can then go on to be implemented by government, he noted.
He said Ghana had the conducive environment that allowed young people to explore and development their ideas. The challenge was however in getting the support they need to build and scale their ideas.
An important aspect of this support needed is more intentional policy, backed by political will that would catalyze the potential in technology and innovation.
The two-day conference is on the theme; ‘Next Level”, seeks to explore issues relating to digital activism, health, journalism, art, business, future technologies and women in technology, among other topics.
About 1,000 participants are attending the conference, being held at the Round Pavilion of the Trade Fair Centre in Accra.