I am Gerry Komandega TAAMA, president of one of the three parliamentary groups of the Togolese National Assembly. My participation in the Parliamentarians for Peace program, initiated by the Open Diplomacy Institute, is a godsend for me. And this for three reasons.
The first is that you learn a lot there. The sessions are very rich, with experts as resource persons in fields as sharp as they are relevant.
The second reason is that we learn from the experience of the proficience of other parliamentarians. Exchanging with parliamentarians located all over the world remains a very enriching experience.
The third reason relates to improving my level of proficiency in the English language. Being from a french-speaking country, Togo attending sessions where English is the only exclusive language remains a good learning experience.
When one lives in a country as poor as Togo, where more than the population lives below the poverty line, it is bold to talk about innovation where emergencies are often elementary and vital. Common needs typically include food, access to health care, access to water and electricity, youth employment, and schooling. But in the face of these challenges, innovation is an opportunity by its transcend traditional problems by opposing revolutionary solutions, which take shortcuts in time and space.
Togo has chosen to put digitization at the heart of its development program. Some axes of this program concern the upcoming creation of a digital bank, the generalization of monetary transfers by mobile money, and the digitalization of administrative services. With an 85% penetration rate of mobile telephony, digital remains today, for such a small country, an endogenous and inclusive development issue.
I am the most connected politician in the country with 74.000 followers on Facebook, and this canal constitutes for me a tool of communication certainly, but of training and education. In the framework of the fight against covid-19, my page has been used a lot for example for raising awareness against the risks of the pandemic and the generalization of barrier actions.
The challenges of digital in a country like ours are numerous and concern the following areas: the cost of the internet connection, the cost of terminals, content creation. The solutions are certainly national, but they would benefit from being sub-regional or even international.
Indeed, by focusing on a particular sector of innovation which is digital, it is very quickly obvious that the African actor, despite their enthusiasm and their interpersonal skills, is very quickly overwhelmed to offer lasting solutions to the challenges of innovation. The main reason is that horizontal cooperation is very decisive in the successes that innovation gains every day on the planet. There is no longer any spontaneous generation. Experiences and discoveries are shared by the scientific and technological community, so that community work benefits everyone and Africa is unfortunately on the fringes of this scientific community.
Likewise, innovation relies on scientific and technical equipment and facilities that Africans are sorely lacking. It is enough to visit the national school of engineers of Togo to realize the deprivation in which these students are trained.
Finally, the security and health situation in several African states prevents that we take care of something other than basic needs. In this context, only international cooperation can help to preserve a core of initiatives involved in research and innovation.
The solutions to the challenges in innovation are therefore intended to be dealt with by Africans, but without north-south cooperation, these will be slow to see the light of day.
Gerry Taama is a Member of the Togolese Parliamentary Assembly. He is the Chair of the NET Parliamentary group.