When it comes to innovation, Africans must believe in their own knowledge

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Africans should believe in their own knowledge. This was the advice of researcher Hilary Nwokeabia at the 9th edition of the African Economic Conference on Sunday, November 2 in Addis Ababa.

A presenter on the theme “Knowledge generation for structural transformation,” Nwokeabia said, “Knowledge plays an important role in vital areas as food security, local agriculture, construction, entertainment and medical treatment for up to 80% of Africa’s economy.” Nevertheless, activities related to realization/implementation of local agriculture, food security, construction, entertainment and medical treatment have been misunderstood for various reasons. “Africans have to believe in their own knowledge,” he said.

In his presentation, “Inclusive industrial growth in Africa: the role of institutions for local knowledge”, he argued that there is a need to balance policies and practices that support local knowledge and contribute directly to local community development. It showcased two models: the motivation and growth-ladder models. It also identified and explained “the failure of innovation and knowledge in Africa” to generate industrialization.

The main thing in Africa, in the author’s belief, is that “we are going through technology pluralism, resulting to an average African being confronted with two types of knowledge – imported knowledge and the one we use to sustain our livelihood – traditional knowledge.”

He said that Africans do not necessarily protect individual and local innovations and intellectual property rights. “This has had negative impacts on the open use and continuity of innovations in the African knowledge system.”

In pragmatic and simple language, Nwokeabia explained that for a typical West African, “the tendency to eat Egussi soup is much higher than eating lasagne,” but at the same time, he has both. Furthermore, he said, “Africans have their types of local wines that they drink, but they prefer drinking champagne and [imported wines].”

For him, the problem is that very few Africans understand the imported knowledge of champagne. They don’t know how champagne is made – it is easier for them to learn how to process local products.

The majority of Africans have unique knowledge through which they have sustained their societies.

As a result, innovation in the local system cannot be pursued as a business and would not contribute optimally to industrial growth. “If allowed proper institutional protection, today’s innovators may proceed to the next stage of innovation without fear of encroachment,” he added.

The author further argued that the absence of a proper protection of property rights mechanism has inhibited the progress of the knowledge system, pushing the best African innovators to hide their ideas or become indifferent to the public.