Over the next 35 years, Africa has the potential to grow its $1,3-trillion in wealth 10-fold. This presents a significant opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs to contribute to wealth creation on the continent, but the risks are high, says Merle O’Brien, an African futurist who leads foresight and innovation thought leadership at Lacuna, a global innovation management consultancy based in Berlin, London and Cape Town.

Currently, three out of five start-ups fail on the African continent because of their inability to identify trend-driven opportunity spaces in which to address unmet consumer needs. She says many start-ups are replicas of existing concepts instead of having a unique, relevant, trend-driven differentiator that holds value and is scalable within an African context.

Currently, Africa has six of the world’s fastest growing economies and the growth of its middle class is outpacing the rest the world.

“This provides fertile ground for the creation of new product concepts, services and experiences based on African trends to address unmet needs of the emerging African consumer”, says Merle.

Using a state-of-the-art, cloud-based technology platform, Lacuna is building an African trends radar to support a trend-based approach to innovation across Africa’s 54 countries.

Lacuna Radar is an innovation management software developed in Germany that tracks and analyses trends across geographic and sector fields to support identification of opportunity spaces. It is an enabler of innovation within a client context; used to support Front End Innovation for Lacuna’s clients such as Porsche, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Distell.

By applying Lacuna’s innovation software in Africa and combining this with its Front End Innovation methodology, more local innovators will be able to successfully turn a trend into something profitable. “Such a game-changer would enhance the success rate of African start-ups and corporate intrapreneurs,” says Merle.

Lacuna is recognised as one of the world’s leading innovation firms. In 2015, it is sponsoring and speaking at global innovation events such as the Foresight and Trends Conference in Los Angeles, the Innovation Roundtable in Copenhagen and the World Innovation Convention in Berlin. It opened an office in Cape Town, South Africa in 2013 to provide trends, insight and innovation commercial expertise in Africa. Today, the Cape team includes 18 specialist trend researchers, analysts, innovation management consultants and a futurist.

As part of the Open Design Festival underway in Cape Town, Lacuna will host two events to share its expertise with the local market on Saturday 22 August 2015, at the Watershed of the V&A Waterfront.