By Zazi kaSintu Weyi
Innovation is a beautiful concept and Theodore Levitt puts it beautifully: ”Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
From the 6-8th of September, one of the biggest spaces for innovators in their fields filled up the Cape Town stadium to demonstrate, share experience and network on ideas they’ve started, seen them to their fruition, or even rub shoulders with pockets of investors that came to fund some dreams.
In its simplest, the word innovation directly talks to change, shift and transformation. Transformation is the topic I need to zoom into, especially when it comes to events that happen in spaces such as Cape Town and surroundings. This city seems to always carry an air of separatism in terms of class and race. The age-old saying, “the poor get poorer, while the rich get richer”, should be its official soundtrack.
Even with all the data garnered, the reality and the poor human element always seems unimportant. In a country where the majority still lives beneath the poverty line, this place revers the “saviour” stance of those that have money to tell how the poor should live without as much as recognising the irony.
Some of the speakers merrily spoke about prioritising education as the tool for innovation. The same education that “normal people” can’t afford. Not once did I hear how fees could innovatively be dropped so that access, or in this case, the lack thereof, couldn’t be the issue.
“Data is the new currency”, one speaker proudly explained in his presentation. I’m sorry what, sir? How is data the searing light that’s meant to save us? As futuristic as these idea are, how are they assisting the data rates to drop?
Black people problems are always popular, palpable conversations in white spaces speaking about innovative ways of improving “their” ways of living, when all they know about black struggle is their annoyance when “Nancy” is late for work because “those taxis in the townships are up to their nonsense again” when actually Nancy woke up at 4 to take 4 modes of public transport to get to your home and take care of your children while hers don’t even remember how her smile looks like.
In a country where the population sits at about 79% black people, there are still spaces that are still occupied and owned by 99% white people. This probably explains why advertisements still portrays old, black women dancing when their loans are approved. Exorbitant bank loans that enable them to lead a basic lifestyle. We also see the cool, black creatives that allow these atrocities to continue.
Our worst fallacy, as a people, to date is thinking governments can spearhead the vision of the people.
Poor people’s pain should stop being mined to be appropriated and gentrified for the middle and higher class’ entertainment. There’s no honour in being a guinea pig to poverty experiments and there’s certainly no honour in being poor. The parading of “solutions” that are masqueraded as beneficial to the regular Thabo on the street should commit all the way.
Sustainable solutions means that your job doesn’t end at dropping off computers at a township to alleviate unemployment. It’s great, but does it address the ability to use the fancy machinery?
Real innovation and transformation will only kick off when we are all clear of the disparities in the system.