Innovation in Africa: A View from the Peaks and Hilltops of a Spiky Continent
In a widely read 2005 article in the Atlantic Monthly, author Richard Florida argued that with respect to innovation, the world is anything but flat. Given the way that creative talent, technical expertise, and financial capital tend to cluster in a handful of hubs or “peaks” around the world — places such as New York, San Francisco, London, Berlin, and Tokyo — the world’s innovation topography is best described as “spiky” (Florida, 2005). Although Africa, to borrow Florida’s metaphor, has few innovation peaks of global significance and lots of valleys (and indeed, plenty of chasms), the continent does contain a growing number of hills, wherein entrepreneurs are profiting from latecomer advantages in technology to design new products, reengineer old ones, and launch bold new business models. African entrepreneurs and corporations have made particular inroads in sectors such as telecommunications and financial services, where firms like Safaricom and MTN Group are world leaders in mobile money. But they have also achieved success in manufacturing, consumer goods, and agriculture (Juma, 2011; Ware, 2013).
KeywordsPrivate Equity Political Reform Venture Capital Firm Economist Intelligence Unit Frugal Innovation
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