Perspectives from Africa,
engagement from Finland

Understanding Africa

Representing Africans


Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Investing in a competitive edge

When Juha Miettinen reached the Namibian capital, Windhoek, in 2011, he was a complete newcomer to Africa. He had worked at a science hub in Finland, near to Nokia's offices in Tampere. In Namibia, he is enjoying a very particular challenge; the implementation and management of technological innovation in the country, through the facilitation of the Southern Africa Innovation Support ((SAIS) programme, which is funded to the tune of six million euros by Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA), through the contractual arrrangements of the Finnish Consulting Group (FCG) - a broad-based private sector company working with Finnish municipalities and government departments to project manage training, consulting, design and engineering and assorted international projects.

"Innovation issues are close to my heart," said Mr Miettinen, speaking to Suomi/Africa.

Juha Miettinen, CTA and Team Leader at the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) programme

Mr Miettinen is now chief technical advisor and team leader at SAIS. He is very much concerned with investment in partnerships for technological and commercial progress.

Described as a "Southern Cross of Innovation in Africa", SAIS's constituent entities include the Botswana Innovatiion Hub (BIH), the Mozambique Information and the Communication Technology Institute (MICTI), and the Namibian Business Innovation Centre (NBIC). Collectively, these bodies identify opportunities for innovation in the Southern Africa region, establishing requirements and objectives to be achieved from each project, and then auditing the results once underway.

Aspirations and objectives

Innovation is a knowledge-based competitive edge, used to benefit business, society and well-being," said Mr Miettinen. Describing himself now as a Finn from Namibia, Mr Miettinen has sought to support the aspirations of a country he cares very much for, by delivering a competitive edge to the country through investment, invention and incubation, bringing companies to market,with international objectives. These innovations may be non-technical as well as technical, and Mr Miettinen recognises this. He seeks to create customer ans user orientation to create pioneers in markets, and to open up innovation to as many people and groups as possible. This would be achieved through networking, capacity building, learning from best practices and institutional development. Its institutional partners include private and public sector organisations, civil society, and academia. Mr Miettinen described the framework approach as a process of "interplay and interconnections between different players in nurturing an inovation ecosystem".

He noted, then, that these partners are still emerging as intermediaries, and they are crucial to support the interplay of science, technologies and innovation. Of these groups of partners, civil society is the most challenging, since it involves scientific or technological integration within communities.