His Excellency Ambassador Sylvestre Radegonde, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles,
Professor Theesan Bahorun, Executive Director of the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council
Mr. Christian Grün, Head of Cooperation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
Mrs. Gina Lucarelli, UNDP Global Team Leader for Accelerator Labs,
Professor Anil Gupta, Founder of the Honey Bee Network and Executive Vice-Chair of the National Innovation Foundation of India,
Public officials and members of the innovation ecosystem in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Seychelles,
Participants watching us on Zoom and Facebook,
Warm greetings to you all wherever you are!
Today is Innovation Day, and I am pleased to welcome you all to the virtual launch of the UNDP Mauritius and Seychelles Accelerator Lab. Thank you for taking time off your busy schedule to be with us.
Development challenges are increasingly complex, and the present COVID-19 pandemic has made them more so.
The pandemic has had a global impact, and for Small Island Developing States, the pandemic has laid bare the vulnerabilities in countries such as Mauritius and Seychelles, notwithstanding their high-income and high human development status.
Even though COVID-19 is a source of stress for inhabitants of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Seychelles, people have adapted by becoming more resilient and many have started to adopt several sustainable principles and practices.
They have understood that it is important for all of us to leave a better planet to the generations to come. And this is no easy task, but progress has begun already.
You have just heard that from three innovators (Ms. Espitalier-Noël, Ms Verdaine St Pierre, and Mr. Francourt) who are optimistic about the future of the three islands as they find solutions to reduce food waste by repurposing old fruits and vegetables, optimize natural resources such as animal waste for biogas production, and empower youth people through mentoring and training.
To respond to the complex challenges of sustainable development, in 2019, the UNDP built the world’s largest and fastest learning network on sustainable development challenges. Today, the Accelerator Labs Network is present in 91 locations all over the world and covers 115 countries.
We will hear from the Accelerator Labs Team Leader Gina Lucarelli, during this launch, about how UNDP is contributing to reimagining development for the 21st century, building on innovations and their grassroots innovation, and experimentation at its core. Through a global network, grassroots innovations are identified by each Lab. They are validated, tested, and deployed across the country. The most successful innovations can then be upscaled and benefit the region and, even, worldwide.
This massive UNDP endeavor would not have been possible without the leadership of the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, an avid supporter of the concept and philosophy of the Accelerator Labs Network.
We also thank the German Development Cooperation, the Qatar Fund for Development, the Government of Italy, and all UNDP Core Partners for their support.
My extended thanks also go to Professor Gupta’s Honey Bee Network in India, Nesta in the UK, UK Research and Innovation, and MIT in the US for providing their expertise to the network.
Ladies and gentlemen,
So why an accelerator lab for Mauritius and Seychelles? There are 10 years left to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals target. This must be a decade of action. So we want to leverage grassroots solutions and innovation to give a boost towards the targets.
For Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Seychelles, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call. Many in the tourism sector have lost jobs and are likely to lose more as a direct consequence of the pandemic. What would be the best plan for reskilling and redeployment? Will women be impacted more than men? How can women become active players in, say, the sustainable on-grid photovoltaic electricity generation sector as part of a Green Recovery?
These are the kind of questions that the Lab will be explored, map grassroots solutions and experiment with. They will need to be fast and curious...
One of the tasks of the Lab Team will be to reach out to all innovators in Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Seychelles and build a comprehensive database of solutions. They will invite people, especially uncommon actors, to embrace the idea that their innovations are fundamental for the future of the country, the region, the African continent, and the world at large.
UNDP, throughout its long history, has collected an enormous amount of wisdom but there is even more wisdom on the ground. If we want to bring meaningful change, we need to learn from each other.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You have just met the Lab Team, Ayooshee Dookhee is the Head of Solutions Mapping. Her role is to discover and validate grassroots innovators and their innovations and, hence, regularly enrich the repository of knowledge. Of course, for her to be able to do so, she will have to engage with innovators on a regular basis.
We know that important conceptual, scientific, technical and, even, societal advances are happening elsewhere. As Head of Exploration, Melany Poorun-Sooprayen, will work on emerging trends and support the UNDP country office can adopt an anticipatory approach towards sustainable development.
Avinash Meetoo, Head of Experimentation, will contribute to breaking down traditional silos by identifying the real drivers of change. He will design experiments to contribute to solving complex sustainable development challenges and finds ways to make everyone work together. Experiments might come from solutions mapping or from exploration but can also be constructed using emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, the Blockchain, or Artificial Intelligence.
The team will work directly with communities Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Seychelles, scanning the horizon, sensing what’s happening on the ground, and capturing trends and stories. This is something that the three heads cannot do alone.
I, therefore, invite you all to join the lab team in their work.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are confident that identifying the most promising grassroots solutions and scaling them to the country and the region will provide new momentum for economic growth and job creation across our island’s states.
The Lab will also contribute to policy dialogues and collaborate with public and private institutions. And, as I have mentioned, we want our UNDP programmes to be enriched with inputs from our Accelerator Lab colleagues, whether based in Mauritius or elsewhere, on a regular basis.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today’s event is an important milestone for both the Republic of Mauritius and the Republic of Seychelles.
So in closing on this UN World Creativity and Innovation Day, allow me to quote the UNDP Administrator, Mr. Achim Steiner, who said one month before the COVID-19 pandemic started:
“This is not the end of the future.
It's just the beginning of the next future.”
Our future starts today.
Let us all build the largest and fastest learning network in Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Seychelles.
Thank you for your kind attention.