report 1: The Global Innovation Index (GII)

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) recently published the 14th edition of the GII. In the introduction WIPO Director-General Gary Tang says this:

"To overcome the pandemic and build back better we will need to continue supporting the translation of great ideas into game-changing products."

Tang goes on to justify the GII as follows:

"The GII's overall formula for measuring an economy's innovative capacity and output provides clarity for decision-makers in government, business and elsewhere as they look forward to creating policies that enable their people to invent and create more efficiently."

So what does the GII show? Well it tells us that the ten most innovative countries in descending order are Switzerland, Sweden, USA, UK, Korea, Netherlands, Finland, Singapore, Denmark and Germany. Perhaps no real surprises there! But as we're an Africa-based and Africa-focused firm I'd like to concentrate on African countries. What does the GII tell us about how they are doing?

stats for Africa

According to the report these are the ten most innovative African countries (including surrounding islands), together with their rankings:

  • Mauritius (52).
  • South Africa (61).
  • Kenya (65).
  • Tunisia (71).
  • Morocco (77).
  • Cape Verde (89).
  • Tanzania (90).
  • Namibia (100).
  • Rwanda (102).
  • Malawi (107).

some interesting facts

  • Of the top ten countries only Kenya and Tanzania have remained in the Top 100 and improved their performances over the past five years.
  • A number of African countries have moved up this year's ranking. These are Kenya (65), Namibia (100), Malawi (107), Madagascar (110), Zimbabwe (113) and Burkina Faso (115).
  • Kenya is in the category of "innovation over-performers", scoring well for institutions, markets and business sophistication, as well as knowledge and technology outputs.
  • "Innovation achievers" include Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Madagascar, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Tanzania.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of economies performing above expectation.

The state of innovation

The report reveals that, although investment in innovation reached an all-time high in 2019, investment in innovation proved to be resilient in 2020. Publication of scientific articles actually increased in 2020!

International patent filings via WIPO also reached an all-time high in 2020. According to the report this increase of 3.5% was largely driven by medical and pharmaceutical patents. Companies involved in software, hardware, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology invested more than before in innovations, whereas companies involved in fields like transport decreased investment.

The report goes on to make two further points:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the largest number of overperforming economies relative to their economic development.
  • North Africa is performing better than a number of other regions, namely Western Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Central and Southern Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

report 2: The Outline of Building a Powerful Intellectual Property Nation (2021-2035)

China recently published a 15-year plan to develop intellectual property rights. It discusses both short-term and long-term goals.

short-term goals

The report forecasts that by 2025 "the construction of a powerful intellectual property nation" will have achieved the following (sometimes remarkable and sometimes very specific) results:

  • Intellectual property protection will be stricter.
  • "Social satisfaction" will reach and maintain a high level.
  • The market value of intellectual property will be enhanced.
  • Brand competitiveness will be significantly enhanced.
  • The added value of patent-intensive industries will reach 13% of GDP.
  • The added value of copyright industries will reach 7.5% of GDP.
  • The total annual import and export of intellectual property royalties will reach 350 billion yuan.
  • The number of "high-value invention patents" (this term is used a lot) per 10,000 population will reach 12.

long-term goals

The long-term goals (by 2035) are equally ambitious, and some of them are surprisingly vague and even touch-feely. There's talk of constructing an IP system that:

  • Is oriented to socialist modernisation.
  • Supports a word-class business environment.
  • Encourages innovation and development.
  • Is "convenient and beneficial to people".
  • Creates "a humanistic social environment that promotes the high-quality development of intellectual property".

There's also talk of:

  • Connecting traditional Chinese medicine to the IP system.
  • Accelerating IP legislation in the spheres of big data, AI and gene technology.
  • Researching and improving rules that protect algorithms, business methods and AI outputs.

lessons for Africa

Companies will adapt to changing circumstances, even pandemics and they will continue to innovate. But in order to really thrive they need first-rate IP laws and systems. The Chinese authorities seem to understand this very well. Understanding of IP is improving in Africa but it is time for African governments to really embrace IP. That means doing a lot more than creating a once-off IP policy document, one that is published with great fanfare and then never discussed again!

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