Harnessing home-grown innovations for transformative change in Africa

Keynote Address: Africa Knows! Conference (online)

Prof. Erika Kraemer-Mbula
Professor of Economics, DST/NRF/Newton Fund Trilateral Chair in Transformative Innovation, the 4IR and Sustainable Development

Promoting innovation has become commonplace across the world, including in Africa, due to its social and economic transformative power. Africa is often portrayed as in need of “catching-up” in terms of technology, advanced technical skills, etc. Partly, this assessment arises from the adoption of parameters and criteria that pay little attention to aspects that are central to the continent, such as the importance of “collective knowledge”, cultural and traditional values, or the informal economy. Unleashing Africa’s innovative potential requires a much better understanding of “home-grown” innovations and the creative processes taking place on the ground – for instance, in the context of informality. Such understanding may provide a sounder basis for designing public policies and programs promoting innovation in Africa.