A year ago, our New Year’s message was one of hope: a COVID-19 vaccine had been developed in record time, and we looked forward to a year of recovery and normalcy.
Instead, we begin 2022 watching Omicron numbers peak worldwide, with COVID entering its third year of devastating impact on global health, food security and economic systems, particularly in the global south.
Looking back, 2021 brought us a clear message: none of us are safe without all of us being safe. Rich countries’ scramble to vaccinate their own populations while disregarding the situation in low- and middle-income countries did not protect them from COVID, rather it made them vulnerable to new variants.
Moreover, this lesson, that we cannot assure our welfare without looking to the welfare of all, was evident in other areas as well: unprecedented numbers of tropical storms, floods and wildfires reminded us that while developing countries still pay the highest price in climate change impact, in the end, we are all at peril.
And so, with this growing realization, the countries of the world met to speak about how to move forward together to addressing the world’s problems: COVAX, COP-26 and the UN Global Food Systems summit all brought renewed commitment to global action and impassioned speeches emphasizing not only the need to combat inequality but also the important role new technologies and innovation have in addressing our joint challenges.
We all wait to see whether in 2022, these speeches will translate into concerted action and real change.
Here at the Pears Program, we have spent much of the past year thinking about how we can grow our partnerships and improve our impact by broadening the scope of our engagement with innovation ecosystems of the global South.
For the first time, we operated a program whose aim was supporting Ghanian AgriTech startups, in partnership with Innohub Ghana and the Embassy of Israel in Accra. The AgriTechAccel program connected Ghanaian tech-enabled growth-stage startups with Israeli technology experts who supported the startups develop and refine their technology products. We hope that this will be the first of many new programs harnessing Israeli technology and innovation expertise for the benefit of African innovators and enhancing exchange and collaboration between ecosystems.
In addition, we continued with our work to support Israeli tech startups that are working with local partners in the developing world. We welcomed a second cohort of companies into the Innovation Journey program in partnership with the JDC, which focused on supporting Israeli Digital AgriTech startups in adapting their product to the smallholder farmer’s market in Ethiopia in cooperation with 17 partners operating on the ground in Ethiopia. The second cohort of the Pears Program-IsraAID pilot fund introduced 11 companies with innovative solutions for WASH, public health, education, and data management to the humanitarian world and two companies from the first cohort piloted their solutions in Columbia and Dominica.
We also launched two new programs to support Israeli startups with technologies addressing development challenges: the 360 Connect Platform and the Pears Clinic.
We developed and launched the Fifth Pears Challenge on Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in Ghana, which will work with outstanding Israeli innovators and entrepreneurs and partners from Ghana in the coming year to help develop high-impact tech ventures addressing food system needs in West Africa.
Moreover, we continue to work with the Israeli government to translate our decade-long experience of working with startups addressing development challenges to governmental policies that can catalyze and support technology innovation for development.
Our hope for 2022 is that we will be able to continue to develop new partnerships and collaborations, connecting between Israelis and partners in the global South, between innovation ecosystems and international development actors, in ways that will enable us together to address the world’s most critical development challenges for the benefit of all.
Wishing you all a year of partnership, action, and impact!
Hagit Freud, Managing Director & the Pears Program team