Innovation Pathways in Africa October 3, 2010

Economic growth depends on innovation pathways argued Professor Martin Hall at a recent lecture in Dakar. This means, he explains, small scale innovation implemented over a period of time, not events or magic bullets. “Sustainable innovation comes from the cumulative effects of implementing small scale, useful ideas over quite long periods of time.”Martin Hall delivers a lecture on innovation at the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning, cosponsored by TrustAfrica and CODESRIA.

There is an ethical dimension to innovation. Fast food, for example, is an innovation, and one that has boosted economies, but one that has had devastating effects on human health. At his lecture, Hall gave the example of deep fried mars bars: good for innovation but bad for public health.

What is needed for meaningful innovation? To begin, says Hall, understanding of African culture and societies, as well as confidence. But that is not enough. Government policies must create conditions for innovation via appropriate incentives and regulatory environments. And innovations need to reach people to make a difference

Hall spoke to a roomful of African ambassadors, academics, and grant makers as jury member of TrustAfrica’s Investment Climate and Business Environment (ICBE) research fund, which has supported over 50 research teams in 20 African countries and will support more over the next three years. This research is providing greater understanding of African economies and the conditions necessary for enterprise development. It could provide contextualized case studies for African business schools which currently rely on those coming out of Harvard University. In these ways, ICBE helps create innovation pathways in Africa.

A common theme of the ICBE-funded research, according to Hall, is the “need for innovative public policy that connects small scale rural and peri-urban livelihoods” with electrify supply, successful large businesses, commercial farming and fish production, and trade opportunities.

Martin Hall is vice-chancellor of Salford University in the United Kindgom. He is also associated with the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He was the inaugural dean of higher education development at the University of Cape Town and later, from 2002 through 2008, served as Deputy Vice Chancellor. When he first came to the University of Cape Town in 1983, however, he was Associate Professor of historical archaeology.

He spoke as a jury member of the Investment Climate and Business Environment (ICBE) research fund of TrustAfrica. He delivered this lecture on innovation at the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) in Dakar, Senegal in August 2010. The event was cosponsored by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and Trust Africa, an African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal, which supports democracy and civil society and the emergence of philanthropy in Africa.

Click to download Martin Hall’s paper on Innovation Africa.


Leave a Reply