Africa – Innovation Hub for Growth

Date: Wednesday 8 June 2011
Venue: Lisbon Congress Center
Time: 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.


Mr. McLean Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer, The Innovation Hub, South Africa
Prof. Dorothy McCormick, Research Professor, Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Mr. Romain Murenzi, Executive Director, TWAS (The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World), Italy
Mr. Cheikh Modibo Diarra, Microsoft Chairman for Africa, South Africa
Mrs. Frannie Léautier, Executive Secretary, The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Zimbabwe
Mr. Tshepo Mahloele, Chief Economist of Harith and Member of the Board of Trustees, Pan African Infrastructure Development (PAIDF), South Africa


Dr. Reuben Abati, Chairman, Editorial Board of The Guardian newspapers, Lagos, Nigeria

Innovation is complex and this stems from the fact that it is a multifaceted phenomenon. It is part and the result of a long process and a big picture encompassing education, culture and attitudes towards risk. It is shaped by formal institutions, such as market regulation and incentives, and it depends on a stable environment with sound governance mechanisms, based on the rule of law.

Innovation is about creating value from knowledge. It involves the provision of new goods or services to the market or finding of new ways to improve services, produce goods, organize production process and/ordevelop a market. Thus knowledge is the key factor for innovation. It can come from a formal process, such as research and development (R&D), it can be indigenous knowledge developed over decades of learning from the environment, or it can be local knowledge of what works and what does not. Innovation is driven by entrepreneurs who take risks and change things. Learning how to support innovation in developing countries is a challenge, and rising to the challenge will help people to create wealth and to contribute to the progress of their society.

Although countries are diverse and “one size does not fit all”, innovation has been instrumental in the double digit economic growth of all developed and emerging countries. Between 1960 and 1965, period when most African countries became independent, the average per capita income (in purchasing power parity terms) of South Korea and Singapore were lower than those of African countries such as Cameroon and Ghana. In the 1980s, the average per capita incomes of South Korea and Singapore were respectively three and eight times higher than those of Sub-Saharan Africa. The high growth rates in Asia’s emerging countries have been sustained a profound structural change in the economies, based on innovations, strong sectoral performance and clear vision.

To sustain growth, these countries addressed issues related to policy coherence, innovation ecosystem, knowledge markets, investments in R&D and the strengthening of mechanisms that convert knowledge to jobs and wealth.

In Africa, similar paths are being witnessed –although slowly– rooted on transformational role of technologies.

Indeed, mobile banking is creating a revolution in the banking and financial markets, and countries are making the necessary adaptations in their policy and regulatory frameworks to open up the required space for private investors to intervene. The recent turbulence created by the three crises (food, fuel and financial) has created opportunity to immediately permit innovation as a catalyst and contributor to accelerated growth, poverty reduction and social cohesion.

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