Launch of the Innovation Foundation for Democracy

7th October 2022


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The Innovation Foundation for Democracy is officially launched today, 6 October 2022, in Johannesburg at Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct. This Foundation is chaired by Professor Souleymane Bachir Diagne, well-known scholar, philosopher and director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Columbia. The Ambassador of France to South Africa is the honorary president. The board includes personalities such as Professor Achille Mbembe, professor at Wits University and Lesley Donna Williams, CEO of Tshimologong.

The Innovation Foundation for Democracy is an African non-profit organisation registered in South Africa, founded on 7 July 2022. Headquartered at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, the Foundation will have a network of three regional hubs on the African continent, as well as one in Marseille, France.

« Wits is proud to host this African initiative dedicated to collective and innovative thinking, with the aim of supporting endogenous dynamics in the field of democracy in Africa » said Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand.


The Innovation Foundation for Democracy is one of the flagship proposals of the report, « The Future for Africa-France relations, working together to face tomorrow’s challenges », presented by Professor Achille Mbembe to the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, ahead of the New Africa-France Summit which took place in Montpellier, France, on 8 October 2021. Professor Mbembe is a historian and political theorist and is currently research professor at the Wits Institute for Social and Economy Research.

Co-written with a group of African and French personalities such as Professor Diagne, Pap Ndiaye, a French historian and current Minister of National Education and Youth, Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa and historian and researcher Leyla Dakhli, this report was notably based on 65 conversations which took place during the first half of 2021 in 12 African countries (South Africa, Angola, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Tunisia).

During the New Africa-France Summit, President Macron endorsed the proposal and announced the financial support of France to this African initiative.

Since April 2022, Professor Mbembe was charged to lead the preparatory work for the Foundation. The future beneficiaries of the Foundation, both on the field and the research world, were involved in this work, in a spirit of co-construction.

Why an Innovation Foundation for Democracy?

« The Foundation aims to connect the African youth from all backgrounds at a time of common challenges for democracy in both Africa and Europe. Its programs and tools will be dedicated to a wide audience, from researchers to artists, social entrepreneurs to non-profit managers who are active in the field of democracy. » said Professor Diagne.

Conceived as a network of innovation hubs all around the continent and in France, the Foundation aims at:

(1) Identifying the change-makers who innovate in the field of democracy on the continent, and building a network that enables innovative conversations and experience sharing in the field of democracy;

(2) Highlighting and disseminating the experiences and knowledge produced by these innovators, to support and encourage the exchange of ideas, experiences around democracy in Africa;

(3) Creating pedagogical content based on the experiences of the beneficiaries, based on their history, their culture and their territory;

(4) Providing resources, tools, and generating conversations and workshops in spaces of freedom and laboratories dedicated to creativity, that encourage the emergence of new perspectives and ideas on democracy, as well as high-impact initiatives;

(5) Supporting initiatives that will emerge from these conversations.

This framework was elaborated through a consultation conducted by the Timbuktu Institute, based in Dakar, with 500 young Africans involved in the field of democracy on the African continent.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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