Innovation in African countries

Posted on March 27, 2015 12:05 am

The current changes being experienced by the African countries makes efforts to create knowledge economy a timely and relevant for industry and policy makers alike.Innovation provides an opportunity for recognition and focus on the key role that innovation plays in securing a country future’s prosperity.African countries have a proud history of innovation. However, despite the continent history dating back centuries, and growing economic fundamentals, the content should not rest on its laurels. Innovation is about the future, about creating the society and economy that Africans want for their countries.Enormous economic value is attributed to the innovativeness of companies and governments. One African country after another has sought to recreate Silicon Valley formula, setting up tech-parks, innovation labs, incubators, and a host of other facilities.There’s plenty of evidence though, that although countries can create the conditions for innovation, they cannot innovate.Innovation leads to success and economic value, growth and advances in human civilization.Studies in recent past have suggested that national governments seeking to foster successful innovation hubs need to tackle several issues in their design and implementation.

African countries need national plan for the development of a knowledge economy, including the transfer of technology and diffusion of innovation. Investing in innovation projects in collaboration with the private sector, governments can involve provision of infrastructure and the fostering of knowledge sharing and communication within the innovation hubs.There is plenty of evidence that innovation does not always lead to success.History is littered with any number of innovative ideas and products that either never took took off or took decades and multiple iterations to reality and that leads me to one of the must have for any innovation to see the light of the day meaning sufficient financial capital available that can fund commercialization of the product.In fact, many successful companies didn’t even have to be very innovative. Given a multitude of innovative ideas, many, if not most, wither and die while some bloom and succeed to become global-trendsetters.Therefore there’s need for African countries to make it easy for business start-ups to form and to foster the growth of small firms through appropriate taxation, skilled worker visas and intellectual property laws.

The resources boom is helping keep the African countries economies buoyant.However, there is no reason why Africa countries cannot build successful innovation driven economies despite their higher costs involved in setting up business.Of particular importance is the need to find suitable enterprise champions. African countries lacks the major global brands and need to create an attractive environment for global firms.In South Africa and Kenya, the focus has shifted onto knowledge and human capital. The creation of an innovation driven, knowledge-based economy requires a much greater investment in education and training.It include developing an ecosystem that involves a lot of hard work and passionate belief in the innovation.There are different kinds of innovations like product innovation,operational Innovation, business model and consumer model. Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile payments system pioneered by country’s leading telecom operator Safaricom, which essentially bypassed the entire banking infrastructure by moving banking into the hands of telecoms companies across Africa.

African countries need to ensure that such innovation hubs are based on sound foundations in which the existing industries are globally competitive and complement other hubs.Policies designed to foster greater linkages between university research centers and industry are important and should include collaboration over Research and Development and the transfer of technology.There are a good many lessons to learn about innovation, and because the technology industry regularly and rapidly undergoes reinvention and disruption, it’s a particularly fertile ground for innovation. There’s a long way to go from the idea to the successful execution of an innovative idea, and if you fail, don’t be discouraged, because you won’t be the first.It is important that African countries innovation hubs are designed to attract foreign and domestic investors over the longer term.There should be services and support systems that make relocation into the hub attractive for business. Support to local small firms in the form of financing and logistics or training and export development are also important.The next time you have an innovative idea, remember that it’s not enough to have a great idea as it doesnt guarantee success.

Contador Harrison