Viewpoint: Africa’s Regulators Are Smothering Its Innovators

Monday, September 26, 2016

The birth of mobile money transfer in Kenya has raised optimism about the potential of the continent to leapfrog in other technologies. However, Africa’s mobile technology is starting to look like an exception despite efforts to create start-ups using emerging technologies and platforms such as drones, 3D printing, robots and machine learning.

 There are many reasons for the slow pace at which Africa is able to harness the power of emerging technologies and put them to economic use in the same way it did with mobile phones. One of them is the prevalence of regulatory cultures that suppress innovation.

But much of the legislative reform on innovation in Africa is devoted to creating new bureaucratic structures and seeking to guarantee a proportion of the GDP to research and development (R&D). These measures have their role but they are among the least useful in spurring innovation using emerging technologies.

 Take commercial drones, whose global market is projected to reach $127 billion by 2020, as an example. In some circles this technology is stigmatized because of its military use. But the top projected civilian applications include infrastructure, agriculture, transport, media and entertaining, insurance, telecommunications and mining. Many of these will benefit African countries seeking to leapfrog traditional data collection services and land-based transportation infrastructure.

Source: Quartz (link opens in a new window)