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5 ways to close the global innovation divide

Anabel Gonzalez's picture
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Participants gather at a hackathon in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo by Flickr user Erik (HASH) Hersman)


High income economies are dominating global innovation. Led by Switzerland, the top 10% are outpacing the rest in innovation as measured by the 2014 Global Innovation Index. This rich-poor innovation divide is striking with a handful of high income countries, mostly in Europe accounting for most of the top 10%. The bottom quintile consists of predominantly low income economies with more than half from Sub Saharan Africa.

 Global Innovation Index Report, 2014
Source: Global Innovation Index Report, 2014


The top innovating economies rate strongly on the quality of their institutions including a stable political environment and an effective regulatory and business environment. They benefit from and continue to invest heavily in human capital, research and development and infrastructure. They score highly on business and market sophistication – good management is fundamental for private sector innovation. They have also established most if not all of the elements of a successful innovation ecosystem. These countries consequently dominate in knowledge outputs including on most measures of knowledge creation, impact and diffusion as well as in technology and creative outputs.

It is difficult to imagine that poor countries or emerging markets without innovation will be able to catch up and become high-income economies in the 21st Century, an era already characterized by previously unimaginable technological progress and, importantly, international diffusion. Populations in these countries are in dire need of innovative solutions to deliver clean water and energy, health and education services, better housing, sanitation and transportation and increased food production while battling the adverse impacts of climate change. These economies need to create jobs for millions of unemployed youth leveraging the benefits of an increasingly digital global economy.

What can be done to bridge this yawning innovation and competitiveness gap?

Africa's Pulse: Now is the time to invest in Africa

Herbert Boh's picture

Africa's Pulse, a new publication highlighting economic trends and the latest data in sub-Saharan Africa, launched on Friday with a clear message: this is the time to invest in Africa.

At the launch, World Bank Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan explained that, "although Africa was the hardest hit by the crisis, its recovery has been so remarkable that we could be at the beginning of what history will describe as Africa’s decade."

The outlook isn't all rosy, of course. With the global financial crisis halting the steady rate of growth in the region, Africa will now likely miss most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their 2015 deadline, despite the remarkable progress. n estimated 7-10 million more Africans were driven into poverty and about 30,000-50,000 children died before their first birthday because of the crisis.

Taking the temperature of the financial world

James Bond's picture

Global attention is mounting about this year's Annual Meetings of the Bank and the Fund in Turkey. From Egypt, where I am on MIGA business on my way to Turkey, the discussion is around whether the meetings will advance the G20 communiqué in terms of substance and specific implementation measures.

Traffic in Instanbul, Turkey. Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank I spent two days earlier in the week with global private equity investors. Their anxiety mostly revolves around how financial sector regulation will evolve over the coming months. They feel the cold wind of oversight, and the discussion revolves around two competing plans for financial regulation, one emanating from Brussels and the other from Washington. But everyone accepts that an overhaul of financial sector regulation is the unfinished business from last year's financial crisis, even though views differ on the extent and content of the changes needed. My own concerns are whether the world's piecemeal international governance system will enable a coherent global regulatory structure to emerge from the wreckage of last year's financial meltdown.

In Istanbul I'm looking forward to taking the temperature of the financial world. I hope and expect the meetings to be more subdued than in past years, because we have some serious business to do; and many players who were around at the Singapore meetings are no longer with us (Lehman, Bear Stearns, Merrill, AIG...).

It's a new world.