Research as a catalyst to grow technology clusters in Africa

by | Jul 5, 2017

Photo credit: DFAT photo library (cc)

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) published a report on the top global innovation hubs drawn from over a million patents filed between 2011 and 2015.

Four of the top five innovation clusters are from the Asia-Pacific region, with the Silicon Valley cluster sitting (un)comfortably in third place. On a larger scale, the top 100 does not feature any cluster from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Western Asia.

Not that it is a surprise that no African technology cluster made the list but it is important to highlight why they didn’t — an aversion to research.


While the ranking accentuates the increasingly vital role local clusters play in fostering global innovation, it is important to note that the clusters cannot alone cause any transformation if technology hubs fail to come true for startups in terms of research.

Africa’s poor standing mirrors an unfortunate reality that has seen research and development given less importance, both in building scalable products or an active technology community.

An investigation conducted by Techpoint in April revealed that only a few notable incubation hubs in Nigeria are inclined to research.

Asides providing mentoring, business services and development, as well as technical support for young startups, technology hubs should also imbibe a research culture. This way, the emphasis will be on creating businesses with hands-on local solutions as opposed to the trend of building first before testing the market.

Practically, research is one of the first steps to find where innovation is happening and how to approach it. Innovation will only thrive when there is a clear understanding of the problem. Anything outside of that amounts to putting the cart before the horse.

India, ranking 95th and 96th on the list of top 100, is reportedly the fastest growing tech hub in the world. Apparently, technology companies have leveraged research, especially in healthcare and education. The ripple effects have not only improved access to resources and created jobs, the country boasts of a vibrant startup scene, with the average age of founders at a mere 28 years.

Perhaps this questions the effectiveness of innovation hubs in producing local startups that can compete at the global level. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem like a lost cause just yet.


Granted, one major hindrance to conducting quality research is adequate funding. While it is a global problem, forging a relationship with corporate bodies, research institutions and other relevant authorities is a viable alternative. BudgIT set an example when it partnered with the Kaduna state government on an open budget system, giving the former unhindered access to otherwise inaccessible information.

Having an environment that makes it possible to have such rewarding collaborations is one of the standing hallmarks of a true ecosystem.

Techpoint is conducting a survey of tech worker salary satisfaction in Nigeria. Please take just three minutes to fill this anonymous form. Thank you.

Ifeanyi Ndiomewese
Ifeanyi Ndiomewese

Ifeanyi is a desk reporter-turned administrator. Outside of work, I love to read and travel.

Are you in tech and you are looking at getting a foreign remote job or you want to move abroad? Fill this form and you will get the BEST resources to help you get that high paying remote job as well as japa easily! WAGMI!

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
essay on
essay on
4 years ago

It should be good sign for Africa’s people and i hope most of the people are like this education in here. To get more better invention in here they need to invest in technology and also need to inspire their students to come ahead.

Recent News

Kenya’s digital products for PwDs

Kenya’s digital products for PwDs

On #TechpointDigest, Victoria Fakiya (@latoria_ria) discusses what Jumia’s partnership with CGAP could mean, and Kenya’s digital products for people with disabilities.

Reclaiming stolen African artefacts

Reclaiming stolen African artefacts

On #TechpointDigest, Victoria Fakiya (@latoria_ria) discusses how Traction wants to stop fake alerts, Canza Finance’s journey, Esaal’s $1.7m seed round, and JABU’s $15m series A.

[PODCAST] Relooting African art with NFTs

[PODCAST] Relooting African art with NFTs

What do you think about an NFT project that wants to reclaim Africa’s lost artefacts? Well, the editorial team had some interesting thoughts, and you can listen to this and other stories on today’s episode of #TechpointAfricaPodcast.

$2 million to drive learning via WhatsApp 

$2 million to drive learning via WhatsApp 

On #TechpointDigest, we discuss how major players in the African mobility space can change the mobility narrative, FoondaMate’s $2 million funding, Twitter Create, and AMP’s $5.6 million seed round.

Subscribe to Techpoint Digest!

A daily 5-minute roundup of happenings in African and global tech, sent directly to your email inbox, between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m (WAT) every week day!

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Subscribe to Blockchain Explorer

Analysis oninnovation, regulations, and trends inthe blockchain sector, as it concerns Africa

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Subscribe to The Experts

A bi-weekly where tech career specialists take us on their journey from newbie to expert, and how they became successful in the industry.

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Subscribe to Founder's Table

A monthly series, where we catch up with founders in the startup ecosystem, learn about their failures, successes and a few tricks of the trade

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap