Mauritius ranked first in Africa in the Global Innovation Index 2021

Mauritius ranked first in Africa and 52nd among 132 countries globally in the 14th Global Innovation Index (GII) report, released by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on 20 September. Unlike most African countries, the report said Mauritius has a high human development score. Its economy has grown robustly in the last half a century, especially on financial services, tourism and information technology.

The GII, published by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), ranks world economies according to their innovation capabilities. The GII has two sub-indices – the Innovation Input Sub-Index, which captures elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities, and the Innovation Output Sub-Index, which reflects the results from innovative activities in the economy and has more than 80 indicators, which are categorised into the following seven pillars: institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge, and technology outputs and creative outputs.

The world’s most-innovative economy in 2021 is Switzerland followed by Sweden, the US, the UK and Republic of Korea, according to the GII 2021 rankings. In sub-Saharan Africa, only Mauritius (52) and South Africa (61) rank in the top 65; and only Kenya (85) and Tanzania (90) have remained firmly within the top 100 and have improved their performance over the past five years.

On average, the region performs best in Institutions, even ranking above the average of the Central and Southern Asia region. This is based on the political, regulatory and business environment for strengthening institutions.

Mauritius ranked the highest in the region in the following categories: Institutions (rank 21), infrastructure (65) and creative outputs (31). Namibia came first in ‘human capital and research’ (57) and South Africa in ‘market sophistication’ (23), ‘business sophistication’ (51) as well as ‘knowledge and technology outputs’ (61).

The GII 2021 reported that investment in innovation had shown great resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that this varied across sectors and regions. Investment in innovation had reached an all-time high prior to the pandemic, with research and development (R&D) having grown an exceptional 8.5% in 2019.

When the pandemic hit, the big question was what its effect on innovation would be. Historical evidence suggested a severe cutback in innovation investments. However, despite the human toll and the economic shock resulting from the pandemic, scientific output, R&D expenditure, IP filings and venture capital (VC) deals continued to grow in 2020, building on peak pre-crisis performance:

  • Publication of scientific articles worldwide grew by 7.6% in 2020.
  • Government budget allocations for the top R&D spending economies that have already disclosed their R&D budgets continued to grow in 2020. The top global corporate R&D spenders, for which data is available, grew overall R&D expenditure by around 10% in 2020, with 60% of R&D-intensive firms reporting an increase.
  • International patent filings via WIPO reached a new all-time high in 2020. An increase of 3.5% was driven by medical technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
  • VC deals grew by 5.8% in 2020, exceeding the average growth rate for the past 10 years.

Strong growth in the Asia Pacific region more than compensated for declines in Northern America and Europe. Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean also registered double-digit increases. First quarter figures suggest VC activity will be even more vibrant in 2021.

Firms whose innovation was at the heart of measures to contain the pandemic and its fallout – notably (i) software and information and communication technology (ICT) services, (ii) ICT hardware and electrical equipment and (iii) pharmaceuticals and biotechnology – amplified their investments in innovation.

Firms in sectors heavily hit by the pandemic’s containment measures – such as transport and travel – cut back their innovation outlays. However, despite such cutbacks, available data suggest that innovation investments overall proved resilient in the face of the pandemic; and especially so when compared to the depth of the economic downturn.

“As the world rebuilds after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to utilise innovation for deepening the transformation of our economies and societies for the good of all,” said WIPO Director-General Daren Tang.

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