The EU:Africa online hackathon is seeking innovative solutions to socio-economic problems in Africa that have been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis. Estonia and the African Union, in cooperation with Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Poland, with the implementing partners Garage48 and Smart Africa are organising an online cross-continental hackathon EU:Africa The Post Crisis Journey on 10-13 December 2020. The recruitment of participants and mentors has started on euafricathejourney.com.
The programme is open for team and individual sign ups – visionaries, developers, designers, marketers, entrepreneurs, engineers and anyone socially active. The organisers hope to engage 10 000 tech-savvy and socially conscious participants, 300 mentors and at least 100 community building organisations from both the EU and Africa. The idea submission is open for new ideas and those already being implemented which can contribute to softening the COVID-19 aftermath. In line with the Africa-Europe Digital Economy Partnership Report as well as with AU Agenda 2063 and the United Nations sustainable development goals the competition is looking for ideas in 11 areas: education, food security, health and wellness, governance, economy and entrepreneurship, Smart Cities in Africa, cyber security and data protection, big data, banking and finance, job security, vulnerable populations.
Two online matchmaking sessions will be held before the hackathon on 28 November and 5 December to combine the best teams for ideas. To give a new dimension to the European-African partnership, cross-continent mixed teams are encouraged.
The most promising teams will receive guidance and support to implement their projects in the real world. Post-hackathon support to the teams will include a matchmaking event with investors, experts and relevant organisations as well as post-hackathon mentoring for up to six months. The EU:Africa hackathon prize fund is 100 000 euros (fundraising ongoing). Organising the hackathon is funded by the development cooperation funds of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia.
According to Andres Rundu, the Foreign Ministry’s Undersecretary for External Economic Policy and Development Cooperation, Estonia has considerably expanded its contacts with the countries and organisations of the African continent in recent years. “Organising a hackathon with such a level of ambition is a clear demonstration of how Estonia can use its digital strengths to advance the cooperation between the European Union and Africa in several ways. Even before the pandemic, the rapid development of Africa was spurring on a great interest in digital services, and now the digital transformation has gathered even more speed. This hackathon enables us to join the forces of Europe and Africa for a successful digital transformation,” Rundu said.
Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, highlighted the timeliness of the event: “The post-COVID-19 era offers Africa an important opportunity to revitalise its economy under a green and smart framework that supports health and prosperity embracing new technologies. We are confident that youth shall put their creativity, innovation and ingenuity using digital skills into providing solutions that help Africa recover better and faster.”
Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation of South Africa, that currently chairs the African Union, emphasised the role of science and innovation at the forefront of the response to COVID-19 in both Africa and Europe: “Cooperation between African and European scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs can make a decisive contribution, not only to defeat the pandemic, but crucially also to accelerate economic recovery. This hackathon will make an important contribution to enable such partnerships and it is, thus, an initiative, South Africa is delighted to support.”
Franz Fayot, Luxembourg Minister for Development cooperation and Humanitarian action, added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on our economies, making us face a variety of new challenges. But where there are challenges – there are opportunities. Through this hackathon we will be able to foster the creativity and the ingenuity of our young people and professionals from Africa and the EU, who will all be working towards the same goal in a competitive spirit: elaborating scalable solutions to today’s challenges.”
Martin Villig, a co-founder of Garage48 and Bolt, one of Estonia’s unicorns, is excited to see Garage48 going back to Africa: “Exactly 10 years ago we organised our first hackathon in Nairobi, Kenya and several African events followed. Now we are pleased to scale up the experience and bring together the talented tech communities of both continents.”
According to Lacina Koné, the Director General of Smart Africa, the changes that have been precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic have changed the way we all do things: “We need to adapt to the new normal and thrive. This can only happen if we encourage innovation and ’out-of-the-box’ thinking. That is the purpose of this hackathon and we believe that this partnership will achieve the best possible results for Africa.”
Garage48 (Estonia) has been organising hackathons and other entrepreneurship focused programmes for more than 10 years. The current program builds on the experience of #hackthecrisis global movement and The Global Hack. On 9-12 April 2020 more than 10 000 participants from 98 countries joined The Global Hack to fight the pandemic. Dozens of the solutions that came out of the #hackthecrisis events have been implemented in real life already.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia