2017 Global Innovation Index: Why experts say Africa is pulling its weight in the field of Innovation

The 2017 Edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII) was released recently in Geneva, Switzerland. The 2017 edition makes the tenth uninterrupted release since its inception in 2008.

The index is published by Cornell University, Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires {INSEAD, also known as the European Institute for Business Administration) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

140 countries and economies around the world were ranked in 2017, based on 79 indicators.

front cover of The 2017 Global Innovation Index

At the global level, Switzerland, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States lead the pack. However, the authors also looked at their data from other perspectives, for instance, how countries perform relative to their economic development and the quality of innovation (measured by indicators such as university rankings). In both cases, the results are more remarkable.

In the area of innovation, many countries in Africa punch above their economic weight, according to the report. Page 29 of this year’s GII (xxvii on the document) has this to say:

“For several editions, the GII has noted that – relative to its level of economic development – the Sub- Saharan African region performs comparatively well on innovation. Since 2012, Sub-Saharan Africa has had more countries among the group of innovation achievers than any other region. Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, and Malawi stand out for being innovation achievers at least f ive times in the past six years. Kenya is the chief innovation achiever in the region, outperforming every year since 2011 –including in the 2017 edition”.

What innovations make African countries punch above their economic weight, you may ask.

Interestingly, this year’s index is themed: “Innovation Feeding the World” and focuses on Innovation in Agriculture and Food Systems. This theme is apt, because Agriculture being one of the most ancient and fundamental sectors of human activities in the world, also remains an important field, presently witnessing a groundswell of technological change, innovation and development. Some of the technologies and innovations in the world are deployed in the Agric sector. In the Agriculture sector, Africa is pulling heavy punches according to the index, although the continent apparently lags behind others by the index’s universal standards.

The agriculture and allied sector continues to face an enormous rise in global demand and increased competition for limited natural resources. Especially in the developing world and characterized by gross economic and social inequalities (coupled with inequitable access to safe, nutritional food and quality healthcare), the sector in Africa requires innovation to meet the ever-rising demand for food and sustained growth, if the continent must earn its label as ‘the food basket of the world’.

The changing shape of agriculture in Africa is guaranteeing a growing number of African countries a place on the Global Innovation Index. About one in four people living in Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from chronic hunger.

The graphs below illustrate how African countries over the past few years have been jostling for prominence on the GII. It also shows that although Africa is doing seemingly well on the global stage, though trend analysis may not paint an altogether rosy picture of the continent’s progress in Innovation, generally. The number of African countries making it to the GII list is also dwindling. However, a closer look at the trend also shows stiff competition in the field of innovation, among African countries.

The rankings of African countries have dropped over the years.

In 2013, out of the 35 countries which made the list from Africa, the country with the highest score was Mauritius with 38 points. Sudan had the lowest with 19.81 points.

In 2014, 37 countries in Africa made the list. Again, the highest was Mauritius with 40.94 points. The country from Africa with the lowest score was yet Sudan with 12.66 points.

32 African countries made the GII in 2015 and Mauritius still made the first position, with 39.23 points. Sudan had 14.95 points and could not rise above the lowest position again,

In 2016, 29 countries from Africa made the list with Mauritius coming first at 35.86 points. That same year, Guinea made the last position with 17.4 points.

In the latest GII (2017), Morocco clinched top position with 32.72 points. Guinea was the minion with 17.41 points.

Now, the take-home from the 2017 GII: as competition for innovation gets stiffer among African countries, the greater opportunity for socio-economic development it heralds for the continent.

Outrepreneurs created graphs below, showing the ranking of African Countries (2013-2017):

Figure 1: 2017 Innovation Rankings of African Countries, according to the Global Innovation Index


Figure 2: 2016 Innovation Rankings of African Countries, according to the Global Innovation Index


Figure 3: 2015 Innovation Rankings of African Countries, according to the Global Innovation Index


Figure 4: 2014 Innovation Rankings of African Countries, according to the Global Innovation Index


Figure 5: 2013 Innovation Rankings of African Countries, according to the Global Innovation Index

Facebook Comments


Cees Harmon14 Posts

    Cees (pronounced Case) is on the editorial team at outrepreneurs.com. He has been in the field of journalism for 11 years and counting. He relishes Banga soup with fufu.


    Welcome! Login in to your account

    Remember meLost your password?

    Lost Password

    %d bloggers like this: