UNCTAD Technology report: Africa lags behind

UNCTAD Technology report: Africa lags behind

A recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development provides analysis of innovation and technology policies in Africa.

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Africa accounts for only a tiny fraction of high technology exports despite considerable investment in research and development, according to a recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

While developing countries accounted for 52 percent of these exports in 2014, Africa accounted for only 0.3 percent, the Technology and Innovation Report 2015 said. It faults unrealistic policies for implementation for the lack of progress.

The report comes at a time when industrial development through technological change has become increasingly urgent for Africa. Focusing on three countries with different economic profiles, the report explores why investment in innovation research has not resulted in more achievements in production.

Based on a detailed analysis of sectoral data and policy documents for Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria, the report concludes that existing policies do not reflect reality on the ground.

Nigeria is an oil-based economy; Ethiopia is one of the least developed countries and relies heavily on agriculture; and Tanzania relies both on resources and other sectors. At the same time, all three have developed national vision documents for industrial development, technology and innovation, and aspire to transform into middle-income economies within the next decades. In all of three countries, UNCTAD conducted sectoral surveys of the several hundreds companies as well as detailed analysis of industrial policy development in the past years.

The key message of the report is that a successful innovation policy depends on its implementation, as well technological development. Without an enabling environment, the companies will not be able to make high-end technologies. To create such environment, the government has to facilitate cooperation among its agencies and representatives of business sector, research and education institutions, and to ensure coherence of innovation and industrial development policies. The report also calls for broader support for private sector through grants, loans and tax credits.

Summarizing their findings, the authors of the report proposed five principles, that could guide policymakers in finding the balance between policy processes and policy coordination:

1) Identify and eliminate policy redundancies in the policy conceptualization and policymaking structure;
2) Promote policy coherence and policy competence;
3) Use resources carefully;
4) Develop capacity for proper policy evaluation and monitoring; and
5) Coordinate the policymaking processes closely with regard to their impact on the business and enterprise environment, and promoting private sector engagement.

You can read and download the UNTAD Technology and Innovation Report here:

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