Africa – Innovator or Imitator? Exploring narratives around Africa’s technological capabilities
How do young Africans see African-led innovation and digital tech solutions within the global context? The latest study by Africa No Filter, Africa – innovator or imitator? Exploring narratives around Africa’s technological capabilities, unpacks the extent to which Africans believe in local innovations and if they are influenced by the dominance of narratives that promote the global North as superior innovators.
African innovation is increasingly beginning to yield more innovative contributions around the world, yet the image of Africa as an innovator appears to be overshadowed by the persistent, harmful stereotypes of a ‘backward’ ‘poverty stricken’ continent that is largely a recipient of global north innovations.
These narratives about Africa often fail to account for the innovative and technological successes that come from the continent and are enjoyed by Africans.
Given the rapid and global impact of technology and innovation shaping the world, this study was conducted with the aim of understanding how young Africans see African-led innovation and digital tech solutions within the global context. Africa No Filter wanted to assess the prevailing narratives that young Africans have about home-grown technology and innovation, to better understand their attitudes to it.
Africa – innovator or imitator? Exploring narratives around Africa’s technological capabilities unpacks the extent to which Africans believe in local innovations and if they are influenced by the dominance of narratives that promote the global North as superior innovators.
The report interviewed 4500 people aged 18 and 35 in Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The majority of respondents believed in the power of African innovation, saying they preferred to use local innovations where they were available. Even though they identified barriers to success such as poor infrastructure and challenges in education, they believed in home-grown innovation and innovators.
Additionally, just over half the respondents felt that it was possible to overcome barriers to success, and that it was possible for poor countries to produce great innovations that can influence the world.
Here are key findings from the report:
- The West is not necessarily best when it comes to innovation: 62% of respondents believe in the power of African innovation and preferred using local innovations where they were available.
- The next greatest innovation could emerge from Africa: Just under half of the respondents (48%) saw no reason innovators could not come from Africa. 24% said they already existed.
- Africans trust location innovation: 62% respondents said they trusted and would prioritize using local innovations over international ones. West Africans were the most positive (66%) regionally, while Kenyans (71%) were the most supportive country.
- Innovation could come from anyone, but government not seen as the most important driver of tech innovation: 50% of respondents believed that everyone should drive innovation, out of necessity and curiosity. Although 44% of respondents felt that government restrictions were a barrier to innovation, only 37% identified government as being mainly responsible for innovation.
- African youth are very aware of the tech innovations in their countries: 64% of respondents said they were aware of the different innovations existing in their countries, and there was a high level of awareness of innovation across the continent.
- Depending on where you are, innovation is encouraged and supported. Overall, most respondents (59%) felt that there was support for innovation and innovators, and that there was an enabling environment in their country. Respondents from Kenya (67%) and South Africa (65%) felt innovation and technology were encouraged, while only 39% of Nigerian respondents and 49% of Ghanaian respondents agreed.
- Infrastructure deficiencies are the main barrier to digital technology and innovation: 53% of respondents cited infrastructure deficiencies as the main barrier to innovation, with East Africans much more likely to identify this problem as a key barrier (67%) and 49% in Southern Africa.