Sub-Saharan Africa in the Global Innovation Index 2022: Regional Leaders and Improvers

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The 2022 edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII) provides insight into the latest global innovation trends amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges that have impacted productivity growth. The GII ranks the innovation performance of 132 economies, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

This year's focus on the future of innovation-driven growth explores whether stagnation and low productivity growth are here to stay, or if the world is on the brink of a new era of innovation brought about by the Digital Age and Deep Science Innovation waves.

Despite the economic recession and historic data suggesting a decrease in research and development (R&D), intellectual property (IP) filings and venture capital, innovation investments actually boomed in 2020 and 2021. The number of scientific articles published worldwide surpassed two million for the first time in 2021, and global R&D grew at a rate of 3.3 percent in 2020, though slowing from the 6.1 percent growth rate in 2019. Government R&D budgets showed growth in 2020, with varied results in 2021, while corporate R&D expenditure increased by over 11 percent in 2020 and nearly 10 percent in 2021. IP filing activity and venture capital deals also experienced growth, with the latter increasing by 46 percent in 2021.

However, indicators of technological progress, adoption, and innovation's socioeconomic impact have shown signs of weakness, causing concern for the future of innovation-driven growth. Productivity growth is at its lowest level ever, and the Great Stagnation period raises questions about the ability of innovation to drive future growth.

The GII 2022 report takes a hopeful stance, putting its faith in two new innovation waves: the upcoming Digital Age wave fueled by supercomputing, AI, and automation that has the potential to boost productivity across all sectors, and the Deep Science wave revolutionizing innovations in health, food, environment, and mobility through breakthroughs in biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, and new materials. However, realizing the positive effects of these waves will take time and overcoming many obstacles will be necessary.

Switzerland continues to hold the top spot in the GII 2022 for the 12th consecutive year, while the United States has moved up to second place. Following the US are Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Korea.

In the Sub-Saharan Africa region, Mauritius (ranked 45th) and South Africa (ranked 61st) are the leading countries, followed by Botswana (86th) and Kenya (88th), both new additions to the top three in the region. Other countries showing improvement in the rankings include Ghana (95th), Namibia (96th), Senegal (99th), Zimbabwe (107th), Ethiopia (117th), and Angola (127th).

Only Mauritius and South Africa rank among the top 80 in the GII, while five other economies in the region are within the top 100: Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, and Senegal. A total of 16 economies improved in the rankings, with Mauritius, Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Angola making significant advancements. Burundi re-entered the GII this year at 130th place due to improved data availability, after previously holding 128th place in 2019. Mauritania is a new entrant to the GII, ranking 129th.

Mauritius excels in Institutions (22nd), Infrastructure (70th), Market sophistication (16th), and Creative outputs (31st). The country leads the world in Venture capital deals (1st) and performs well in Trademarks (15th), ICT services imports (20th), and New businesses (20th). Botswana tops in Human capital and research (51st), with strong performance in Expenditure on education (2nd), New businesses (4th), Loans from microfinance institutions (15th), and Intellectual property payments (22nd). Namibia leads globally in Expenditure on education (1st) and performs significantly above the regional average in Human capital and research. South Africa also performs well in various indicators.

The ranking of Sub-Saharan African countries in the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2022 can have various implications for the region. Firstly, it highlights the areas in which these countries need to improve in order to foster innovation and drive economic growth. For instance, if a country ranks low in the categories of institutions, infrastructure, and market sophistication, it may signal a need for improvement in those areas to support entrepreneurship and innovation.

Secondly, the ranking can also be used as a tool for attracting foreign investment and talent. For example, if a country ranks highly in categories such as venture capital deals, trademarks, and new businesses, it may be seen as a more attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors.

Lastly, the ranking can also serve as a benchmark for governments to measure their progress and compare their performance against other countries. By understanding where they stand relative to other countries in the region and globally, governments can set goals and prioritize policies to support innovation and drive economic growth.