Despite all the hype and news of innovation coming out of Africa in recent times, the 2018 Global Innovation Index (GII) released on 10 July shows that of 126 nations ranked by innovations, eight African countries are among the last ten and only seven countries from Sub-Saharan Africa are in the top 100. The GII measures components of innovation inputs such as human capital, research and business sophistication and results of innovation.
According to the index published by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell University in the United States and INSEAD, a global business school, only eleven African countries and eight sub-Saharan countries made the top 100 innovation countries in the world. The African countries included are South Africa, Tunisia, Mauritius, Morocco, Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia, Rwanda, Egypt and Senegal while the eight sub-Saharan African countries in the top 100 combined with Uganda and Madagascar make up the 10 top innovation countries in sub-Africa. From the African ranking which includes only 29 African countries, the East Africa region led by Kenya leads the continent in innovation with four countries in the top 100 list, followed by both North and Southern Africa with three countries each lead by Tunisia and South Africa respectively. The only west Africa country in the top 10 innovation countries in sub-Saharan Africa is Senegal and she is the last country in the top 100 world ranked 100.
African countries performed poorly in the innovation ranking with the worst performers concentrated in West Africa. Most sub-Saharan African countries sat comfortably at the bottom of the ranking among the ten worst performing countries in the world which are Bolivia, Nigeria, Guinea, Zambia, Benin, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo and Yemen. Seven of these 10 countries are west Africa countries.
Nigeria alongside South Africa and Kenya dominates the tech start-up scene in Africa but performed poorly by all ranking in the GII report. While South Africa was ranked 55 in the world in innovation and Kenya ranked 41 in innovation efficiency, Nigeria ranked 118 in innovation and 96 in innovation efficiency. According to Bruno Lanvin, co-editor of the 2018 GII and the executive director of INSEAD’s global indices, the GII report which was obtained from governments through their respective ministries, statistical agencies as well as international public and private sources reflects the investments of the governments of the ranked countries on innovation agenda, attributing high-performance to the role of their governments. “One of the top reasons for this performance is usually the persistent pursuit of an innovation agenda over time at the highest policy levels. This then translates into an improvement of innovation inputs and outputs as measured in the GII,” Lanvin explains.
The reasons for Kenya’s and South Africa’s performances are obvious, Kenya have some of the best policy and legislative environment for innovation in the continent, specifically around the banking and telecom sectors, while South Africa boasts of the some of the best infrastructure and access to big investor and businesses in the continent. Countries like Rwanda and Uganda may not be getting fanfare like Nigeria but they do have some of the most diverse and impactful grass root innovations in Africa which includes drone delivery, medicine and health solutions, heating and energy storage solutions, solar systems and internet connectivity solutions.
Globally, Switzerland was ranked 1, topping the ranking ahead of the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Eight out of the ten top countries in the world ranking are European countries. More Interestingly, Singapore, an Asian emerging economy was ranked 5 in the top ten global ranking ahead of the united state which ranked 6.