South Africa is Africa’s most innovative country

Size, population and level of education and political participation each have a role to play in innovation. Regardless of how smaller contries strive to pave ways for themselves, they will almost always lag behind richer economies, with more diverse industry and export portfolios, who are likelier to score
high in innovation.

This is the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa as shown by the 2018 Global Innovation Index. Although there have been continuous talks that Africa is the next big thing, the level of education, awareness and policies all collaborate to hold the continent down, in terms of innovation.

Of the 126 countries examined in the 2018 Global Innovation Index, only 8 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa made it to top 100. With 80 indicators used to measure the capacity for innovation and reflect the success of innovation, African countries lagged with an average region-wide score of 25.

By creating metrics through which innovation can be measured across the globe and helping to identify ways that innovation can better serve the society, the Global innovation index analyses the innovation landscape of next decade and identifies possible breakthroughs in fields such as energy production, storage, distribution, and consumption.

The Global innovation index helps to create an environment in which innovation factors are continually evaluated. It provides a key tool of detailed metrics for 126 economies this year, representing 90.8 percent of the world’s population and 96.3 percent of the world’s GDP (in current US dollars).

Topping the list by region is North America with an average score of 56, the second most innovative region is Europe with a score of 47. Next on the list is South East Asia, East Asia and Oceania at 44. North Africa and Western Asia stand at 34, Latin America and the Caribbean 30, Central and Southern Asia 28, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa at 25.

Taking the lead as the most innovative country in the least innovative region is South Africa with a score of 35.1, ranking as 58th out of the 126 countries surveyed. This is almost half the score of Switzerland which topped the Global Innovative Index list as the most innovative country in the most innovative region with a score of 68.4.

The next innovative country on the index after South Africa is Mauritius with a score of 31.3, Kenya follows closely at 31.1. In the fourth position is Botswana with a 28.2 score passing Tanzania with a 0.1 score at 28.1. Namibia scored 28, Rwanda 26.5, Senegal 26.5, Uganda score 25.3 meanwhile the giant of Africa, Nigeria came a distant 10th with a score of 22.3.

In context, richer economies, with more diverse industry and export portfolios, are likelier to score high in innovation than economies with relatively small economies. Whike countries like Nigeria have a large population and economy, which come with a lot of advantages in spurring innovation, the country has not been able to exploit the opportunity. With poor investment in important sectors such as education, several countries in Africa will continue rank low in innovation.

Despite significant investment in innovation inputs, some economies do not generate a corresponding level of innovation outputs. Most economies have a linear relationship between innovation inputs and outputs as seen in Africa.

To promote innovation, the Global Innovation Index encourages the need to prioritize policies that foster new sources of innovation-driven growth. According to the report, laying the foundations for innovation-driven growth is paramount to ensuring that economies move beyond a short-lived cyclical recovery.