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African regional innovation systems: bibliometric analysis of research collaboration patterns 2005–2009

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Understanding the nature and dynamics of Africa’s collaborative research networks is critical for building and integrating the African innovation system. This paper investigates the collaborative structure of the African research systems, with focus on regions and integration. Drawing on a bibliometric analysis of co-authorship of African research publications in 2005–2009, we propose an empirically derived grouping of African research community into three distinct research regions: Southern–Eastern, Western, and Northern. The three regions are established and defined in terms of active co-authorship clusters within Africa, as well as through co-authorship links with non-African countries and regions. We examine co-authorship links both at the national and city levels in order to provide a robust and nuanced empirical basis for the three African research regions. The collaboration patterns uncovered cast light on the emerging innovation systems in Africa by pointing out the differing national, regional, and global roles of countries and cities within collaborative research networks. Lack of research capabilities is the primary factor arresting the development of African innovation systems, but our analysis also suggests that Africa’s internal research collaboration suffers from structural weaknesses and uneven integration. We also identify that South Africa, and some emerging new research hubs, hold critical networking function for linking African researchers.

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    Removed were records such as review articles, editorials, book reviews, notes, etc. This decision was motivated by a desire to increase the validity of operationalizing research collaboration through co-authorships by limiting the analysis to actual knowledge products (e.g. articles, conference proceedings).


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This research was made possible through a research grant by Tekes—The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation to the project “Smart Globalization”. We have also benefitted from comments and criticism by the participants to the “Smart Globalization”-Colloquium, held in Helsinki in August 2010, where earlier version of this paper was presented. We are grateful for especially to Mika Nieminen for his comments, as well as the comments and suggestions made by anonymous referee.

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Correspondence to Hannes Toivanen.

Appendix 1. Renamed and merged cities

Appendix 1. Renamed and merged cities

Cleaning and grouping city names

Names and writing of all cities among the 500 highest paper producing cities were checked and cleaned. After this, all African cities appearing among this top 500 list and having more than 50 co-authored papers with other cities were checked if they were geographically part of larger city structure, or if the city centre was within 50 km distance from another major science centre. This grouping affected significantly Cape Town, Cairo, and Johannesburg, but also some other cities. With this criteria, Johannesburg and Pretoria remained separate cities, as they are located at about 70 km distance from each other. Below details how cities were grouped together.


Final city name Merged cities Distance (km)
Cairo Cairo–Giza 10
Johannesburg Johannesburg–Wits 4
Johannesburg Johannesburg–Bloemfonteins 10
Cape Town Cape Town–Matieland 25
Cape Town Cape Town–Stellenbosch 50
Cape Town Cape Town–Rondebosch 10
Cape Town Cape Town–Tygerberg 10
Cape Town Cape Town–Bellville 10
Pretoria Pretoria–Onderstepoort 11
Pietermaritzburg Pietermaritzburg–Scottsville 4
Kampala–Entebbe Kampala–Entebbe 40

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Toivanen, H., Ponomariov, B. African regional innovation systems: bibliometric analysis of research collaboration patterns 2005–2009. Scientometrics 88, 471–493 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-011-0390-1

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  • Africa
  • Science
  • Collaboration
  • Research
  • Innovation
  • Innovation systems

Mathematical Subject Classification

  • 91C99

JEL Classification

  • 030
  • 055