I have always been skeptical about using the word innovation, it seems like one of those word that gets used too often, however, it is easier to understand innovation than design.
Lets looks at some words from Wikipedia.
Design; ‘Design is used both as a noun and a verb. The term is often tied to the various applied arts and engineering (See design disciplines below). As a verb, “to design” refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component with intention. As a noun, “a design” is used for either the final (solution) plan (e.g. proposal, drawing, model, description) or the result of implementing that plan in the form of the final product of a design process. This classification aside, in its broadest sense no other limitations exist and the final product can be anything from socks and jewellery to graphical user interfaces and charts. Even virtual concepts such as corporate identity and cultural traditions such as celebration of certain holidays are sometimes designed. More recently, processes (in general) have also been treated as products of design, giving new meaning to the term “process design”.’
Which is pretty confusing, then there is design thinking; ‘Design thinking is a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result. Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking is a creative process based around the “building up” of ideas. There are no judgments in design thinking. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation. Outside the box thinking is encouraged in this process since this can often lead to creative solutions.’
And so we end with innovation; ‘The term innovation means a new way of doing something. It may refer to incremental, radical, and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations….The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better.‘
So, what is really needed when faced with challenges in Africa, be it education, health, or water is design thinking for innovation, which in plain English means using creative ways to find new solutions which result in positive change.