Afro-Responsibility Course, Part 2

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Let's trace back grassroots innovations and see how it all went wrong.


Characteristics of Grassroots Innovations


 Indigenous people are the original descendants of the land who understand and use the traditional indigenous knowledge that is unique to their locality. The different cultures, context and countries of indigenous people in Africa results in different grassroot innovations. As the indIgenous inhabitants of the local communities, Africans devised innovations which bacame the basis of daily trade and enterprise. The following are the characteristics of Grassroot Innovations



They came up in an attempt to solve problems in daily living, in the environment or to find alternative low-cost solutions when existing ones are unaffordable. 

They may be considered bottom-up innovations because they are thought to only solve problems and meet needs which are not considered important by wider markets or major institutions (Seyfang and Smith, 2007). 

 They meet the needs of underserved populations and foster social inclusion as they tend to be both affordable and economically sustainable. 

They are environmentaly sustainable because they tend to employ greener technologies and techniques (Seyfang & Smith, 2007: 585).

They are sometimes simple and rudimentary though effective (Monaghan, 2009; Subba Rao, 2006; Verma et al., 2004).

They are a result of having resources that are plentiful in their environment or

They are created to help people survive in resource-constrained environments.  



Advantages of indigenous knowledge systems in grassroots innovations


They are built upon the individual characteristics of the entrepreneur and the environment in which the entrepreneur operates (Jack & Anderson, 2002; Koellinger, 2008; McDade & Spring, 2005; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). 

These innovations have the potential to generate market transformations (Monaghan, 2009; Seyfang & Smith, 2007) 

They provide cost effective alternatives to existing mainstream offerings.  An example is their contribution to making medicine affordable and therefore  available to more people (Mashelkar, 2001). 

Grassroots innovations have a significant wealth creating potential as they meet the unsatisfied needs of a large proportion of most local populations (Prahalad, 2009). 

In comparison to modern technologies, many traditional solutions are locally available and culturally appropriate

In many cases they are based on preserving and building on the patterns and processes of nature thereby preserving the environment

Further, grassroots innovations have an in-built bias for effectiveness because they are need-generated and need-oriented and generated by those who have “first hand” experience of the problems. 

They are more human centred having a better fit with the local context  


Grassroots innovations have a potential to provide effective solutions to problems and advance sustainable, economic development because they use resources that abound in their environment and naturally lend themselves to human centredness


The indoctrinated mindset of constantly seeking the western as superior has therefore left most Africans with an imitative mindset that keeps in a copying mode. This has replaced their original mindset of discovering solutions and evolving same solutions to the level of modernisation. This has contributed to positioning Africa in last place in terms of development as Africa cannot fully develop through “borrowed technological, intellectual and financial resources” (Zegeye & Vambe, 2006). 


Nevertheless, the African indigenous culture (like other cultures) can still renew itself through the resourcefulness of its people in their distinctive ‘ecologies’