Africa needs an innovation revolution – here’s how it can happen

19 Jun, 2017

Earlier this year, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Botswana, called for an “innovation revolution” in Africa.

“African innovators live in a new era of opportunity enterprise where there is enormous need for innovation,” she said, adding that since Africa has the fastest-growing population on earth, it has huge human capital potential.

But she also pointed out that the heavy R&D costs associated with fostering innovation have meant that this activity has tended to be the privilege of wealthy nations until now.

I see Africa as a vibrant and bourgeoning continent full of many opportunities. But, of course, like any continent, it has its own unique set of challenges.

Wealth inequality

African innovators are not only hindered by R&D costs, but must also contend with other difficulties.

Wealth remains unevenly distributed between the cities and the rural areas where most of the population lives. Education systems require investment and even more so in critical STEM subjects. And, with more than 50 different countries in the continent, each at a different stage of economic, legal and political maturity, it is very fragmented, with intra-Africa trade and commerce driving only 15% of GDP.

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