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Review proposes new methods for measuring innovation

Africa urged to “take the lead” in developing methods to measure innovation in informal sector

A review of science, technology and innovation (STI) metrics in Africa has identified several gaps that researchers on the continent need to fill.

This is to ensure STI promotion efforts on the continent achieve their desired developmental and economic results, says the review report, published this week.

The reviewers studied the literature pertaining to STI measurement in the global south, as well as STI indicators globally.

They found the literature was dominated by voices and ideas from the global north. South Africa and Nigeria were the only African countries with five or more papers on STI measurement.

However, they also found evidence of Africa emerging as a “region of interest” for STI measurement research, with academic output on this topic growing since 2019.

The review, Towards a research and theoretical agenda for STI measurement in Africa, was produced under the aegis of the African Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (Africalics).

It was carried out by researchers at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators in South Africa and the National Centre for Technology Management in Nigeria.

Four priority areas

The review authors identify four priority areas for research. Together, they form “a shared research agenda” for STI measurement programmes on the continent, the review report says.

The first priority is identifying African models of innovation, giving more weight to non-R&D or STI driven innovation, including adoption, imitation or adaptation.

The second is to define innovation in the informal economy, which is significant in African countries. “Because the informal sector is not high on the measurement agenda at the international level, it is an area where African researchers need to take the lead,” the report states.

The third is developing indicators for the fourth industrial revolution and digitalisation. And the fourth is orienting STI measurement to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, which will include shifting the focus of measurement from businesses and firms to other actors and beneficiaries.

“We hope it will spark a lot of interest and inspire researchers in various countries of Africa to follow up by investigating what constitutes useful indicators on STI in their own countries,” wrote Margrethe Holm Andersen, a Danish consultant who works with Africalics, in a post on LinkedIn.