It was October 2013. After three long months of training, I was officially a Peace Corps volunteer. I had finally arrived in Boukombé, a village they say rests at the end of the world, a village that was to be my home for the next two years.
That first week, I met M’Po, a young Beninese man of 25 years of age. M’Po was living with my counterpart at the time, helping the family until he went back to school to become a teacher. He was nice enough to show me around the village and introduce me to everyone.
As time went on, we became great friends. On really hot days, we would sit under the tree by my office and talk about life. One day, we were discussing our dreams and ambitions for the future. I told M’Po, “I want to be a serial entrepreneur. I want to solve problems and create things that no one has ever created before.” M’Po thought for a minute and then he expressed a sentiment that irked me for the rest of my service, a sentiment that still irks me today.
He said, “I wish I could create things, but I can’t.” When I asked him why not, M’Po said, “because I am not white, because I am African.” M’Po believed that Africans are incapable of inventing things without the help of a white person. He believed that God had given white people the power to invent but not Africans. We debated the subject for hours that day, but I couldn’t change his mind. For the next month, if I knew I was going to see M’Po, I came prepared with an African invention or an African start-up to present to him as proof that Africans can and do invent. But no matter how many times I brought him a new example, he still seemed unconvinced.
And so, I find myself even today wanting to present one more African invention to M’Po and to every young African that thinks they can’t invent, because you 100% can. Because you are just as inventive as anyone else, anywhere else in the world. All you have to do is dare to innovate.
As proof, I’ve highlighted here three articles, one from online platform Ventures Africa, one from newspaper The Guardian, and one from business magazine Fast Company. Each article is a list of African inventors, African innovations, or African companies, who are inventing, who are innovating, and who are changing the world.
I’ve highlighted one more example from each article, follow the links to read more!
23-year-old Subomi Owo-Odusi from Nigeria just innovated the gas station business model. His app FueledUp is designed to spare Nigerians the trouble of sleeping in lines while trying to get gas in times of scarcity, like in the current crisis. With a swipe of your finger FueledUp will deliver gas right to your vehicle and even fill it up.
24-year old Cameroonian engineer, Arthur Zang, just invented the Cariopad. This patented touch screen medical tablet helps healthcare workers do cardiac tests at far away and remote areas. Zang’s invention will help millions of people that suffer from cardiac problems get diagnosed even if they live in rural areas.
Eneza Education, a Kenyan start-up, creates education content that can be accessed on low-end cell phones. Kids between the ages of 11 and 18 can use their virtual classroom to study math, science and education through quizzes and mini-lessons.
Dave Emnett is the CFO of the Dare to Innovate Board of Directors. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin from 2013-2015. He is also currently a second year International MBA candidate at the University of South Carolina.