Center for Development & Entrepreneurship


Pan-African Deeptech: Key to Sustainable Prosperity


Embracing deeptech innovation – innovation grounded in advances at the frontier of science and technology – in Africa has the potential to drive sustainable economic growth, improve living standards, and bring stability and resilience.  As the wellspring of new solutions, deeptech has the power to address unique challenges faced across the Continent in areas like energy, water, healthcare, infrastructure and the multi-faceted problems of climate change. It holds within it an opportunity for countries across Africa to participate actively in shaping their own future, leveraging science and technology to drive prosperity and allowing for greater global competitiveness. 

In spite of its promise, deeptech innovation continues to be developed at a vanishingly small scale in comparison to the exponential growth of digital innovation across Africa.  While this is to be expected given the significant barriers to participation in deeptech including talent, risk capital and infrastructure, to ignore the opportunity it presents, is to consign the continent to continued dependence on other nations to develop, and prosper from, solutions to their greatest challenges.  To understand in more detail, the barriers to thriving deeptech innovation ecosystems – and to gain deeper insight into what needs to happen to see an increase in the commercialization of scientific research and development – the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT worked in partnership with Open Start Up International’s deeptech BRAIN Program to host a roundtable conversation in Tunisia from October 2023. 

The BRAIN Deeptech Thought Leadership roundtable included over 40 innovation ecosystem stakeholders from 17 countries across Africa, with funding from Digital Africa, Africa Grow, IFC, and the US Embassy in Tunisia, and the support of leading African VC fund Africinvest and storied Tunisian deeptech venture – Instadeep.The 2-day event was structured around 6 panel discussions, each followed by roundtable discussions centered around the preceding panel topic. Panel discussions were carefully curated to lay the foundation for the small group discussions that followed.

The panel and roundtable discussions were structured around 3 main themes:

  • Mapping the Pan-African Innovation Landscape
    • a. Entrepreneurs’ perspective
    • b. Pan-African Investment in Deeptech
  • Fostering Deeptech Innovation in Africa
    • a. Corporate Role in Driving Deeptech, R&D, and Open Innovation
    • b. Role of Universities in Innovation and Deeptech Research
  • Building a Pan-African Deeptech Ecosystem
    • a. Government Policies and Deeptech Innovation
    • b. Ideation Session to Identify Deeptech Ecosystem-Building Initiatives

This white paper serves as the summary of the main discussions and conversations from ecosystem builders, entrepreneurs, researchers, policy experts, advocates, and investors derived from the vibrant discussions held at the roundtable discussion.

Read this paper

This initiative is also followed by a more in-depth analysis and mapping of the African Deeptech Ecosystem developed by Briter Bridges in partnership with the BRAIN program. To access this study, please access the report here.