Stage 3
15:00 - 16:00
Digital Innovation and African Manufacturing

Short thesis

Ghana, as many African countries do, has a thriving technology and digital innovation scene. It also has a low-tech, mainly informal manufacturing base. In this session, the panel and the audience will discuss how to bridge the gap between these two worlds in a way that creates jobs and development. It will cover both digital (e.g.3D printing) and traditional manufacturing technologies, and explore whether the combination of these offers a viable route forwards for African Manufacturing.


The session will start with a short presentation of their relevant work by each panellist, followed by a moderated discussion bringing in the audience. This will cover questions such as:

  • What is the current relationship between hi-tech innovation and manufacturing in Africa?
  • How does the informal sector innovate?
  • How can the millions of Africans skilled in trades such as carpentry, welding, and sewing contribute to, and benefit from, a digital future? What kind of digital skills will help the transition?
  • Can innovation, including the introduction of digital manufacturing techniques, help to increase quality & productivity in the traditional manufacturing base across Africa? What does the 4th Industrial Revolution look like in the African context?

Yaw Adu-Gyamfi will draw on his experience as a co-founder of the Centre for Social Innovations in Kumasi, Ghana as well as his role as the Ghana lead for OpenAIR (African Innovation Research). He will bring in perspectives from his colleagues’ research as well as his own extensive work with entrepreneurs in Suame Magazine, reported to be sub-Saharan Africa's largest informal manufacturing cluster.

Freda Yawson’s perspectives on innovation, manufacturing, and development are shaped by her experiences consulting and managing programs across the continent as well as four years leading the ‘Innovate Ghana’ competition. She will also bring insights from her work for the African Centre for Economic Transformation on challenges and best practices for manufacturing in selected African countries.  

Anna Sera Lowe will bring her background in global supply chains and her current focus on how local manufacturing can support development as well as her decade of experience in mentoring manufacturing SMEs in both East and West Africa. She will also talk about insights gained leading the GIZ-supported ‘MakerNet’ project making medical devices in Kenya, and co-founding Kumasi Hive makerspace & innovation hub.