Friday, 25 July 2014

Africa’s largest economy cares about the Global Innovation Index Ranking

Before we start (if we’re not already) thinking otherwise, Nigeria (precisely, one of its government ministries) does care about its position on the Global Innovation Index (GII) scoreboard. Strangely enough, it seems as if the government had an idea that the 2014 GII wasn't going to be good news.

According to a report by This Day Live (dated 29 June 2014), the Honourable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology (FMCT), Mrs. Omobola Johnson, remarked: “GII seeks to enable countries benchmark the success or otherwise of their Science Technology and Innovations (STI) and policies, and is an index that we must have in our consciousness as we implement our STI policy.” [This policy -which is ICT focused, and described as a “quantum leap”- was approved since 2012. For a summary and/or history of this policy, see here and here. The initial revised policy, i.e. as of 2011, might be this one here]

Mrs Johnson further added: “In 2010, Nigeria ranked 96 out of 132 countries, in 2011 we ranked 96 out of 125 countries and in 2013, Nigeria ranked 96 out of 142 countries. The increasing denominator of countries ranked could imply that we are making slow and steady progress but unfortunately we still fall into the lower quartiles of the rankings.” [Well, readers would’ve already seen Afro-IP’s list for all African countries since 2007. The pertinent point is that Africa’s current largest economy still finds itself down there]

First, the Afro-IP blog applauds Mrs. Johnson for appreciating, with good grace, the GII (whichever year that may be), and calling for the swift implementation of the STI policy. At least, there is something to focus on, and as the saying goes: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. [Afro Leo also commends the Minister for her gallant efforts and advocacy e.g. here, here, and here] We also note that there is a grand plan to have all government ministries and agencies operating online as soon as possible; this may well spell more good news for IP rights administration in Nigeria.

This Leo thinks, for what it’s worth, that:
Nigeria shouldn’t worry too much about its ranking on the GII scoreboard; there are a lot of these world rankings about - most importantly, the World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR). The GII is indeed a useful reference point for policymakers and it would be worthwhile to actually study all the reports since 2007, in order to draw meaningful lessons and comparisons.

Care should be taken to avoid knee-jerk reactions or irrational decisions, which may give rise to misplaced investments or policies without tangible outputs. So, looking at the 2014 GII, the government could just pick out one or two of the innovation input sub-indices [Afro Leo strongly recommends ‘institution’ and/or ‘human capital and research’] and see if it can improve them. There will be financial costs attached to this, but there must be a strong political will to yield ROI. Is it surprising that the top five African countries in the 2014 GII equally performed much better than Nigeria in the 2014 DBR? [Afro Leo screams: Mauritius ranked above Germany?] There may well be a correlation or lesson to be learnt here.

The government might even decide to go beyond the STI policy by designing and effectively implementing a joined-up Knowledge Economy Master Plan. Ideally, this Plan should be maintained and/or reviewed by subsequent governments. There are no shortcuts to this; it is a long-term game.

In conclusion, since the theme for this year’s GII is ‘human factor in innovation’, this Leo would like to leave you - wishing you a nice weekend - with the words of Amartya Sen on investing in human development: “The rewards of human development go, as we have seen, well beyond the direct enhancement of quality of life, and include also its impact on people’s productive abilities and thus on economic growth on a widely shared basis”. Source: Development as Freedom.


Miscellaneous notes:
(1) Earlier this year, Nigeria’s President inaugurated a National Research and Innovation Council (NRIC) with the commitment to developing a knowledge-based economy. [The UK Government looks like it is supporting this initiative; so is Japan]

(2) This Leo didn't find any direct comment(s) regarding the GII by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), whose website was down at the time of writing. However, FMST’s Minister, Dr. ‎Abdul Bulama, has said some interesting things around the subject-matter here and here

(3) Readers will already be aware that the FMST looks after the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) – an agency with a unique and crucial role to play in innovation.

(4) Serious consideration should be given to the state of Nigeria's IP offices, and IP law reform (plus an IP policy). Here is an interesting piece of research by Dr. Ikechi Mgbeoji, which reviews the patent offices across Africa. You may wish to digest that excellent work together with Afro-IP's A-Z series reviewing the websites of African IP offices (here and here) and IP policies in Africa

Some more references
Nigerian government’s policy values ICT innovation, particularly software development here
FMCT urges Nigerian-based businesses to adopt .ng domain to boost economy here
FMCT also cares about consumer rights here
FMCT signs MOU with Bayelsa State Government here
IBM Innovation Hub in Nigeria is here
Huawei (GII 2014 Knowledge Partner) to invest in Nigeria’s ICT here
Did you know that Nigeria has a National Board for Technology Incubation? See here

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