Four African countries rated in innovation studies

A new study has ranked South Africa and Kenya at 30 and 51 out of 56 countries for worldwide innovation influence, while in Bloomberg’s index the North African countries of Tunisia and Morocco are in the top 50 for innovation, ranked at 46 and 48.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a global technology think-tank, released a 20 January report titled Contributors and Detractors: Ranking countries’ impact on global innovation.

The top spot was taken by Finland followed by Sweden, the United Kingdom, Singapore, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The report by Stephen J Ezell, Adams B Nager and Robert D Atkinson looked at various aspects that supported innovation locally, but which had a global effect.

These activities included investing in the workforce through higher education, research and development conducted in universities and institutes, and 'win-win' policies that bolster national innovation capacity while also generating positive spill-overs for the global economy.

Out of 56 countries listed overall and in categories, South Africa and Kenya ranked 29 and 50 in the number of top-ranking universities, with South Africa having six such universities and Kenya one. In terms of numbers of researchers per 1,000 population, South Africa was placed at number 47 with 0.35 and Kenya at 50 with 0.20.

South Africa was number 33 in government research and development expenditure per capita (US$520) and Kenya was 37 (US$469), and the two countries were at 44 and 20 in government funding of university research per capita (US$21 and US$129) and 41 and 53 in research citation.

Bloomberg Innovation Index

The New York-based financial group Bloomberg released its Innovation Index on 19 January, drawing on data from the International Monetary Fund, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Bank, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the OECD and UNESCO.

The ranking began with more than 200 countries. Those that did not report data for at least six of seven categories measured were eliminated, trimming the list to 84. Bloomberg released overall and category scores for the top 50 innovative economies.

Bloomberg based its methodology on seven criteria including tertiary efficiency, spending on research and development, researcher concentration and patent activity along with manufacturing value-added, productivity and high-tech density.

The tertiary efficiency measure includes factors such as enrolment in higher education and the number of graduates in key innovation sectors like engineering and science.

In Africa, Tunisia took the highest grade in tertiary efficiency at 30, but ranked worst in patent activity at 50 and ranked 45 in research and development intensity.

Morocco was number 46 in tertiary efficiency, 48 in patent activity and 47 in researcher concentration, which counts the number of doctoral students engaged in research.

Besides Tunisia and Morocco, in the Middle East and North Africa region only Israel (11) and Turkey (36) made it into the world’s top 50 most innovative economies. In the top 10 were South Korea followed by Germany, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, the United States, Denmark and France.

“The standings reflect the North-beats-South tale of the global economy: Africa, with No 46 Tunisia and No 48 Morocco, and Latin America with Argentina at No 49, are scarcely represented on the top 50 list. Six of the top 10 economies hail from Europe, and three from Asia,” said the Bloomberg report.

Global Competitiveness Report

With reference to Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016, published last September, indicated that the region’s economies remained largely non-competitive.

The study found the 10 most competitive economies in Sub-Saharan Africa to be Mauritius (46), South Africa (49), Rwanda (58), Botswana (71), Namibia (65), Cote d’Ivoire (91), Zambia (96), Seychelles (97), Kenya (99) and Gabon (103).

The Global Competitiveness Report indicated that to move further up the development ladder, Sub-Saharan Africa particularly needed to improve the quality of higher education, the rate at which it adopts new technologies and the capacity to nurture innovation.