Reiko Doege, Head of IT and Infrastructure, Quantum Global Group | My experiences
In the heart Angola’s biggest slums, Fábrica de Sabão, is an organisation dedicated to nurturing young African start-ups to support niche urban manufacturing. The project can also be described as an “innovation ecosystem” as it brings together experts and mentors from around the world to share knowledge, harness creative ideas into tangible outcomes and help launch sustainable businesses in Angola.
After my visit to Fábrica de Sabão, I didn’t just want to file the experience, but continue to contribute to the work I saw onsite
In my professional world, an ecosystem translates into clouds and product platforms defined by core components which offer solutions as part of a larger system. It is where core products in software, manufacturing or machinery work harmoniously or semi-autonomously but always add some element of value to the overall synergies of the system.
The Fábrica de Sabão project fosters an interestingly unique system, unlike one I have ever seen before.
At the location of an abandoned soap factory now stands an emerging vibrant hub for sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship in Angola. The project is an ecosystem that aims to attract creative minds in arts, culture, craftsmanship, business and science to educate, train and mentor youth and in turn promote innovation led development.
One of the project’s many co-working spaces led by experts and mentors from around the world with the aim of helping to encourage inclusion and growth at all levels of society.
It is assembled from old shipping containers with each one dedicated to co-working and maker spaces, a cultural exchange platform, local radio station and a residence program for visiting mentors and artists.
Each craft and lesson is led by experts and mentors from around the world with the aim to help and to encourage inclusion and growth at all levels of society. Youth can learn, create and grow and contribute towards sustainable and social change.
Young people in Angola represent around 70% of the total population. When the country’s civil war ended in 2002, the youth entered into a period of uncertainty and big doubts about job opportunities that would be available for them.
The public sector is prioritising youth in Angola as well. In 2016, the Angolan Government had announced that the National Institute of Youth plans to set-up a permanent support centre for young people to share their ideas, concerns and initiatives.
IT and technology can be a driving factor towards encouraging entrepreneurship and development. Innovation may come directly from technology applications or from the development of new products or processes. In the case of the Fábrica de Sabão, I saw the fertile ecosystem in which this kind of grassroots innovation can flourish.
After my visit to Fábrica de Sabão, I didn’t just want to file the experience, but continue to contribute to the work I saw onsite. We decided that – having recently replaced a range of computer equipment – we could donate some of QG’s used IT equipment to the Fábrica de Sabão project. And we are delighted that our unused computing equipment is now being put to great effect in this project by young Angolans.
The Fábrica de Sabão project to me symbolised change and hope for the future. Through projects such as these, the youth in Angola can – quite literally – take their future into their own hands as well as develop the capacity to create solutions to their specific problems. The model seems to have plenty of advantages and it would be great to see it replicated in other African countries.