Connecting Africa’s Innovation Labs: ICT transforming society

Mr Akhona Damane
Mr Brandon Paschal
Ms Lorna Mutegi-Kamau
Ms Sina Legong

Mr Akhona Damane

Mr. Akhona Damane is currently the Manager: Office of Digital Advantage at the CSIR. He is responsible for facilitating the implementation of the South Africa’s ICT Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap, which seeks to stimulate investment in R&D in ICT by both public and private sectors through partnerships with universities, research institutions and industry players.

He has previously worked as the Manager for Knowledge Management and Innovation (2012-2017) at Transnet Freight Rail, where he was responsible for spearheading the Knowledge Management function. Prior to joining Transnet, Mr Damane was employed by the Western Cape Government Department of Human Settlements as the acting Director for Strategy, Monitoring & Evaluation, and Information Management. During 2010-2011, he worked as a part-time Lecturer in Information Systems at the University of the Western Cape, in Cape Town. In recent years Mr Damane has honoured invitations to be a Guest Lecturer at Wits Business School and at University of Johannesburg.

He holds a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Fort Hare. He has completed a number of certificates in Systems Analysis, Knowledge Management, Project Management and Agile Scrum. He is currently studying towards an MBA.

Mr Brandon Paschal

Brandon is currently Incubation Manager at the Stellenbosch University LaunchLab.  He runs all of their startup programmes that help founders and teams design value propositions business models and strategies.  He has worked with 155 founders and teams and seen companies raise more than R100m in risk capital.

Brandon is part of a team that also runs open innovation programmes for various corporations, including short-term insurance, banking, manufacturing, property and agriculture.

Brandon has spoken at several startup and innovation events, including the University Business Incubator Global (UBI) Summit, Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) and the South African Innovation Summit (SAIS).

Brandon’s expertise is in the South African startup ecosystem (not to be confused with small business or enterprise development) as well as organisational culture design.

Prior to the LaunchLab, Brandon was part of the startup team at Applogix from 2012 to 2015 where he was instrumental in taking the fledgling team of 12 from struggling to break-even to a team of more than 30 and an approximate R50m acquisition by the WPP group.  Applogix specialized in marketing technology that served the advertising agencies.  Brandon spear-headed the project management and business analyst functions at Applogix, and built digital products for Standard Bank, Hollard, Alexander Forbes, MTN, ABSA, Internet Solutions, Barrows and other various small businesses.

Brandon’s undergraduate studies were in Business Science at UNC-Charlotte which was completed in December of 2003.  He also holds an MBA from East Carolina (AACSB) which he obtained in 2013.

Ms Lorna Mutegi-Kamau

Lorna holds a Master of Science degree in Mobile Telecommunications and Innovation and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Information Technology from Strathmore University, Kenya.

She currently works as the Industry Relationship Manager at @iLabAfrica, an ICT Research Centre based in Strathmore University. As an Industry Relationship Manager, Lorna is in charge of developing and maintaining collaborations with relevant partners. She has also been involved in various projects focused on various research areas including Data Science, Financial Inclusion, Women Empowerment, e-Health, ICTs and Sustainable Cities. In addition, she Lectures part-time on Computer Science related course units, with special focus on Data Science and Analytics courses.

Ms Sina Legong

Sinah Legong is aCoordinator at mLab Southern Africa  a mobile technology accelerator that aim to support innovative new startups and to unlock the mobile apps economy. And she is partner at Geekulcha which is an organization focuses on empowering young geeks through ICT skills development and training and hosting hackathons while giving them a taste of what awaits them in the big world through industry exposure. She also runs Raeketsetsa movement which empowers girls and young women in ICT, to enhance community  participation in ICT . She’s been a coordinator for Future GeekStars initiative for high scholars which  focuses on skills development and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation that will make them be active leaders of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. She is a regional ambassador for Technovation challenge, a challenge that offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. She holds a BSC in Computer science, from the University of Greenwich and recently completed.


  • the role and opportunities of the innovation labs in Africa;
  • importance of leveraging on the local innovation ecosystem (including academia, science councils, government, and industry role players);
  • success stories of ICT projects that have had an impact to the society (with respect to skills development and training opportunities to the marginalised communities as well as the implementation of ICT solutions that have a direct social impact);
  • reflecting on the cross-border collaboration projects such as between the mLab (South Africa) and Buni (Tanzania) as well as LaunchLab (South Africa) and Silicon Valley (California, USA); and
  • sharing of international Best Practices and recipes for success.