Tracing our roots: Understanding African innovation

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By Youssef Travaly, PhD MBA, Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Vice-President of Science, Innovation & Partnerships, and Acting President, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Senegal


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
18th International Economic Forum on Africa


Africa-digital-technologyCan you name a famous African scientist?

Barely no one can answer this question, even with some thought. And yet, Africa is the cradle of humanity, and therefore logically, the cradle of science and innovation. So why can’t we name any famous African scientists? The simple answer is that we don’t know much about the history of innovation in Africa. The world’s technologically driven human progress can be divided into two parts: the “Africa” time with major discoveries, including tools, fire, mathematics and steel, and the more recent “industrial” read “western Europe and North America” time with major discoveries such as the steam engine, vaccines, antibiotics, computers and much more. In between the two, the world transitioned from more “informal” homegrown knowledge-based innovation to more “formal” scientific knowledge-based innovation. Within that context, Africa’s research and innovation, which often occurs outside the so-called “formal” innovation framework, completely disappeared from the global map of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Since then, “playing catch-up” has been the cornerstone of the strategy of every single African nation intending to adopt a knowledge-led economy. But do we really need to catch-up? What does catching up even mean?

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How to Build Inclusive Digital Economies

By Atul Mehta, Director, IFC, Telecom, Media & Technology, Fintech, Venture Capital & Funds; Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, Senior Director, World Bank Group, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice; and Jose Luis Irigoyen, Senior Director, World Bank, Transport and Digital Development Global Practice

 

digital-economyIf we wish to create a future built on shared prosperity, digital technology will be critical.

Today, of the world’s 10 largest companies by market capitalisation, six are technology companies. And of those, only two were in the top 10 just five years ago — which gives you a sense of how quickly the global economy is being disrupted.

In fact, as technology innovation accelerates, it may be the best path to inclusive growth. Extending Internet access in developing countries to levels seen in developed countries could enhance productivity by as much as 25%, according to Deloitte. The resulting economic activity could generate USD 2.2 trillion in additional GDP and more than 140 million new jobs.

At the World Bank Group, we have been putting quite a lot of thought into understanding what it takes to create a successful and inclusive digital economy, in light of our mission to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. Technology can be a force for good — by promoting economic inclusion, efficiency, and innovation. But it can also cause upheaval — by displacing jobs or imperiling the security of personal and government data, and even critical infrastructure. And it can widen the digital divide — increasing the gap between those who benefit from technology and those who are excluded and risk falling further behind. That’s why technology’s risks and opportunities must be carefully managed.
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Promoting innovation: Lessons from the Global Fund

By Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director, Sustainable Development Solutions Network

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Since its inception in 2001, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has become a highly respected pooled financing institution that scores top marks in independent reviews.1, 2

It has disbursed some USD 40 billion in grants for complex disease control and treatment programmes in fragile and non-fragile countries alike.

Success was far from assured in 2001, as developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, faced a perfect storm of surging HIV/AIDS, multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and surging malaria deaths. Control and treatment interventions were available in high-income countries, but no one knew how to tackle the diseases in resource-poor settings. In particular, HIV/AIDS treatment was deemed impossible in Africa and was outside recommended approaches for tackling the disease.3

The Global Fund was designed precisely to tackle the lack of quality programmes and implementation mechanisms in developing countries. All too often, however, it is seen as just another funding mechanism. Many reviews lump it together with other multilateral mechanisms and trust funds.4

This is a mistake. The Global Fund has unique design principles that set it apart from bi- and multilateral financing mechanisms with the notable exception of Gavi.5

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What can governments do to harness the potential of new technologies?

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By Eduardo Bitran, CEO and Deputy Chairman of the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO).

To learn more about countries’ strategies for economic transformation, learn about the 9th Plenary Meeting of the OECD Initiative for Global Value Chains, Production Transformation and Development hosted by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand on November 2017.

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Facilities to refine the copper from the mine in Chuquicamata, Chile

Chile is considered a success case, and Chileans today are much better off than a decade ago. However, inequality is persistent and the knowledge base of the country is still limited. What the country also faces is a productivity challenge. Chile’s total factor productivity growth has decreased from 2.3% per year in the 1990s, to a yearly rate of 0.3% from 2000 to 2009, and then to -0.2% after 2010. These trends lasted through several government terms. So, what needs to be done to sustain the country on its path towards development?
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Increasing impact through partnerships

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By Francesco Starace, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of ENEL SpA


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017
Register today to attend


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A view from the community of Ollagüe

Planet Earth is changing, evolving, with such speed and disruption that humans have been forced to question many of the things that used to be taken for granted. This is due in great part to the digitalisation of a world that is ever more interconnected, and therefore increasingly complex.

Whilst this complexity and change might bring about some discomfort initially, it is important not to fight it. It is inevitable, and it must happen. It is much better that humankind embraces it. Doing so means being willing to open up to new ideas, to the potential of new technology, and to listen to what people want and need.
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Tackling crop losses at the root means sharing knowledge

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By Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director Global Operations, CABI


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017
Register today to attend


ACABIll farmers are affected by pests and diseases attacking their crops, but smallholder farmers and their dependents in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected. To put it in perspective, there are about 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide who feed about 70% of the world’s population. When you cultivate less than a hectare (2.5 acres) of land and rely on your crops for both sustenance and income, fighting pests can become a battle for life and death. International trade and climate change are exacerbating the problem by altering and accelerating the spread of crop pests.

Occasionally, when a particularly destructive pest surfaces, it can make headline news. Last year it was reported that the tomato leaf miner moth (tuta absoluta) was wreaking havoc across Africa, causing USD 5 million of damage in Nigeria alone and driving up the price of tomatoes, a food staple. Earlier this year, the fall armyworm made the news for devastating maize crops from Ghana to South Africa. But for smallholder farmers the battle against pests is a daily struggle, not an intermittent occurrence.

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The Global Goals’ Business Opportunity in Africa

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By Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, Chair, Business & Sustainable Development Commission, former UNDP Administrator and Ex-UN Deputy Secretary-General, and UK Minister of State for Africa, Asia and the United Nations


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017.
Register today to attend!


Lord-Mark-Malloch-BrownA critical transition from a heavy reliance on international public development finance to locally generated private sector solutions to development problems is underway. Earlier this year, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission launched its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, which makes the case for why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer the private sector a growth strategy that opens new market value and helps solve significant social and environmental challenges at the same time. The Commission shows how sustainable business models could unlock economic opportunities across 60 “hot spots” worth up to USD 12 trillion and increase employment by up to 380 million jobs by 2030. In Africa alone, sustainable business models could open up an economic prize of at least USD 1.1 trillion and create over 85 million new jobs by 2030.
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