The Yale African Student Association’s (YASA) annual Africa Week concluded this year with the inaugural all female, student-led Yale Africa Innovation Symposium (YAIS) which took place from November 11th to November 12th. The YAIS is designed to move beyond the standard discussion of Africa’s challenges and, instead, focus on creating actionable solutions. The conference emphasized innovative thinking as an important avenue for change, and brought together the perspectives of young, bright minds and the insight of experts to deconstruct issues and develop solutions across various African industries.
The symposium format centered around seminar workshops, called ‘Innovation labs,’ which introduced attendees to various relevant topics related to Africa. Designed to move beyond traditional conference discussions, the YAIS committee intends the symposium to act as a space in which participants can connect personally with leading African experts in their industries.
Some of the speakers for the symposium included Dr. Lindiwe Makubalo, a public health expert in the South African public service, Sophie Nzinga Sy, a prominent Senegalese fashion designer who has been featured by Vogue Italia, and Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho, a distinguished Anglophone Cameroonian human rights lawyer and activist. Alongside symposium participants, experts led the Innovation Labs by engaging with a case study related to their work and aiding participants to pinpoint root causes as well as draft implementation strategies. The overarching themes of the Innovation Labs are Financial Services, Music and Entertainment, Architecture, and Technology.
According to the YAIS committee, the end goal is for invited speakers to implement the solutions formulated in their innovation labs within their organizations and for participants to gain the foundation needed to turn their own innovative ideas about African development into reality. According to YAIS founder Abigail ‘Abi’ Ndikum, the symposium will serve as a necessary building block in not simply identifying challenges faced across all African industries, but also formulating impactful designs that help address the challenges. “In doing so,” writes Abi, “we will take a collective step towards revolutionizing the Africa of tomorrow.”