Freetown Innovation Week

Day 1-FIW 2024


On the inaugural day of Freetown Innovation Week 2024, our Communications Portfolio Manager Ms. Francess Beresford Renner set the tone by stepping into her role as the moderator. Greeted the attendees with warmth, she initiated the event on a positive note, offering a concise overview of what was to unfold. Her emphasis was clear – the event revolved around skills development and the profound impact that could be created through fostering innovation and creativity. The spotlight then shifted onto Mr. Francis Stevens George, the visionary behind FIW and the esteemed Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Innovation SL, as Ms. Renner introduced him.

In his address, Mr Francis extended his gratitude towards Ms Renner for her role and acknowledged the hiccups faced in changing the event’s location, attributing it to communication challenges. With grace, he proceeded to welcome the prominent figures present, including the honourable Minister of Communications Technology and Innovation, Madam Salima Bah, and representatives from Ireland, China, and Germany. Grateful nods were directed towards the main sponsor, Africa Global Logistics and Freetown Terminal, embracing a spirit of collaboration with business partners IPAM, Limkokwing University, and K-Stem.

Upon engaging with the audience, Mr. Francis shed light on Innovation SL’s journey from 2017, a phase marked by a commitment to instilling hope and fostering ambition, irrespective of gender or background barriers.

 Reflecting on initial doubts that shrouded his vision, he credited the support received from DSTI, which reinvigorated the flame of confidence and progress.

Ms. Renner’s call then beckoned HON. Salima Bah, the Minister of Communications Technology and Innovation, accompanied by the Deputy Mayor of Freetown, to officially inaugurate the Freetown Innovation Week 2024. Madam Salima’s words reverberated through the room as she declared, “I hereby launch and declare the FIW 2024 open.”

Highlighting Sierra Leone’s journey towards entrepreneurial success took center stage as Ms. Renner acknowledged strides made in this realm. As she transitioned to introduce the first speaker, the anticipation in the room intensified. The distinguished expert on Artificial Intelligence (AI) captured the audience’s attention – a global thinker recognized by a US-based publication and accoladed for his groundbreaking work in AI.

Noteworthy laurels adorned his achievements, notably the prestigious alumina award from Texas State University, painting him as a beacon of innovation. Thus, Mr. Herman Kojo Chiney Hesse otherwise known as ‘the Bill Gates of Africa’ took the platform. 

Mr Hesse’s discourse on Artificial Intelligence (AI) unfolded a realm of next-level evolution, distinguishing between human and computer-operated efficiencies. 

The narrative spanned beyond mere automation, delving into the transformative potential held by AI. The impending AI wave in Africa gripped the discussion, with cautionary echoes on the need to foresee future implications. The impending revolution, projected to shape myriad sectors within a decade, hinted at the seismic shift in wealth distribution. A future where machines outrun human capabilities could redefine workforce dynamics, posing crucial considerations for the future. The promise of elevated living standards through AI technologies lingered in the room as Mr. Hesse wrapped his enlightening address.

Gratitude filled the atmosphere post-Mr. Hesse’s speech as Ms. Renner transitioned to introduce the seasoned development practitioner, Mr. Joseph Brima, with a niche in Agtech. Mr. Brima’s narrative wove the significance of technology in agriculture, emphasizing the potential Agtech held within Sierra Leone’s agricultural landscape. The urgency of securing food security, and balancing resources with a burgeoning population, resonated through his discourse. Innovative solutions became the centerpiece, accompanied by investment in technology tailored to maximize production outcomes. The emphasis on irrigation systems and strategic technological investments painted a roadmap towards sustainable agricultural practices. 

As she thanked Mr. Brima, Ms. Renner’s introduction of the next speaker, Madam Mariatu Swarray, brimmed with anticipation.

A Climate Change Adaptation Technologies (CCAT) expert, Madam Swarray delved into the climate change discourse, nudging the audience with sobering facts. Sierra Leone’s climate challenges loomed large, provoking a call to arms for innovation to meet this evolving crisis head-on. The narrative spun towards viewing climate change not merely as a threat but as a gateway to innovation and shared prosperity. A vision where climate adaptation could pave the way towards economic equilibrium was painted as Madam Swarray concluded her enlightening presentation.

Post-intermission, Ms. Renner steered the dialogue towards Mr Francis, who dissected the circular economy domain. A peek into the diagnostic tool teased a more comprehensive unveil in due time, setting the stage for an engaging discourse. The concept of circular economy, anchored on sustainable practices, resonated strongly as the audience was nudged to explore more through the FIW QR code. The dialogue traversed the significance of embedding circular economy principles within Africa’s ecosystem, promising a wave of benefits spanning job creation and sustainability. Cost implications were acknowledged, prompting the unveiling of Innovation SL’s ambitious project, 25/25 – a call to source 25% of Freetown’s consumed products locally. A synergy that extended further to supporting Bluecrest in its Sustainable Fashion endeavours.

Professor Francis Amara introduction, the Founder of K-STEM, channeled a philanthropic spirit on technological advancement for Kenema’s young minds. The K-STEM Network represented a
gateway to global technological avenues for primary school students, simmering with untapped potential.

Transitioning to Madam Joyce from the IPAM Centre of Excellence and Entrepreneurship, the spotlight shone on center advancements, punctuated with a word of gratitude towards Innovation SL’s instrumental support. An ecosystem of growth stood testament to the collaborative strides undertaken to foster entrepreneurship and enhance entrepreneurial landscapes.

As Mr Idriss Bashiru, the Head of Innovation at Limkokwing University, showcased the university initiatives, the tapestry illustrated a mosaic of student achievements intertwined with Innovation SL’s pivotal contributions since 2017. A clarion call for cross-university collaboration to navigate emerging challenges and seize unfolding opportunities echoed through Mr. Mohammad’s reflections.

Ms Renner, encapsulating the day’s essence, extended her gratitude to the attendees, signifying that this was merely the opening act of what promised days teeming with innovation and transformative dialogues ahead.