‘Africa’s future is innovation, rather than industrialization’ was boldly stated in the headlines of the World Economic Forum earlier this month. Last week our local Orange Corners team and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from Côte D’Ivoire visited the Netherlands for an innovation tour, during which we visited our partners Unilever, Tony Chocolonely, Friesland Campina and Heineken and received training by THNK Leadership and renown startup accelerators. The goal? To gain key innovation insights and take this knowledge back to our Orange Corners programme in Côte d’Ivoire. Of course we will be sharing the key outtakes with you – read, learn and shoot for the moon!


Before we get to the juicy insights, let’s provide some context: what is the role of innovation in Africa and why is it important? Despite economic growth, Africa faces continuing challenges – including inequality, relatively low agricultural productivity and high youth unemployment. These issues will become even more pressing due to an expected population explosion of 50% by 2050, turning Africa into the youngest continent in the world with over 60% of its population aged under 25 years.

Job creation for youth is crucial and the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to play a major role in supplying that demand. Innovation continues to disrupt Africa’s traditional agricultural, manufacturing and educational industries, offering the continent an unparalleled opportunity to tackle social challenges and thrive. In Africa, early-stage entrepreneurial activity is 13% higher than the global average, showing that Africa is well placed to get startups off the ground, however it also has a higher-than-average failure rate due to insufficient support and infrastructure (WEF, 2019).

At Orange Corners we tap into this entrepreneurial potential: by providing the necessary support systems for young entrepreneurs, while promoting innovation and solutions that contribute to a sustainable and inclusive world. We do this together with private partners, our embassies, knowledge institutes and local organisations. Efforts like these will become increasingly important to help a hyper-connected and entrepreneurial youth population on its way to a sustainable and prosperous future.


Collaboration and innovation are key! Especially with the speed at which today’s world moves. After visiting our partners at Unilever, Tony Chocolonely, Friesland Campina and Heineken, as well as THNK School of Creative Leadership and startup accelerators such as Rockstart, here are the insights on innovation they would like to share with you:

  1. ASPIRE -> do you regard innovation-led growth as crucial, and do you have targets that reflect your vision? Take John F. Kennedy’s aspiration “to go to the moon in this decade”. This motivated a nation to unprecedented levels of innovation. A far-reaching vision, broken down in realistic targets, can stimulate innovative action!
  2. DISCOVER -> do you have differentiated business, market, and technology insights? Are you able to translate these into winning propositions? Remember, even the brightest minds can fail when one does not listen to the market and its customers!
  3. EVOLVE -> do you create new business models that provide scalable profit sources? Go and re-adjust! Go and re-adjust!
  4. ACCELERATE -> do you beat the competition by developing and launching innovations quickly and effectively? The world changes fast, and as a startup you should be able to do the same: adapt your systems, extend your existing products or disrupt existing business models.
  5. SCALE -> do you launch innovations at the right scale in the relevant markets and segments? Do you need to approach existing parties to help you? Be clear WHY you want to collaborate:  do you want them to acquire your business, become a shareholder, become a customer or supplier?
  6. EXTEND -> do you win by creating and capitalising on external networks? Always make sure to have a clear pitch of your vision!
  7. MOBILISE -> are your people motivated, rewarded and organised to innovate repeatedly? Communicate and involve them!

Do you want to follow our inspiring Orange Corners entrepreneurs in Africa and the Middle-East? Or learn more about entrepreneurship and innovation? Follow us on our social media channels!

Sources: these insights are based on interviews with experts in our network as well as the McKinsey report ‘the eight essentials of innovation’