The Global Innovation Index provides detailed metrics about the innovation performance of 127 countries and economies around the world.
Its 81 indicators explore a broad vision of innovation, including the political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication.
South Africa has for many years been leading the African continent in the innovation space. The following are just some of the well-known innovations:
KREEPY KRAULY: The swimming pool cleaning machine was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier of Springs, Ekurhuleni.
In 1974, Chauvier finally figured out a way to take the trouble out of pool cleaning. The original machines were constructed from wood and rubber tubing, which were melted together on a kitchen stove.
Ferdinand’s son, Danny, took these models out to clients, and most were reluctant to part with them once it had been demonstrated to them in their pool. It was obviously not very long before it became evident that the “Kreepy Krauly” was a success.
By 1978, a great number of cleaners had been sold to cover the costs of plastic injection moulding, and the first Kreepy Krauly, as we know it today, was introduced.
CAT SCAN: The Computed Axial Tomography Scan or CAT Scan was designed by Cape Town physicist Allan Cormack and his associate, Godfrey Hounsfield.
Cormack came up with the mathematical technique for the CAT scan, in which an X-ray source and electronic detectors are rotated about the body, and the resulting data is analysed by a computer. The two received the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for this groundbreaking invention.
DRY BATH: A gel that does all the work of a bath without the need for water. The world’s first waterless bath-substituting lotion. The product is the brain child of a young South African, Ludwick Marishane. It differs from the anti-bacterial hand washes by eliminating the heavy alcohol smell. It creates an odourless, biodegradable cleansing film with moisturisers.
Although South Africa is the leader of innovation in Africa, it is is ranked number 57 in the world. This fact highlights a bleak picture for innovation on the African continent. It highlights what should concern innovation specialists, governments and businesses.
Speaking at the inaugural Singularity University Summit SA held yesterday and on Wednesday, Nicholas Haan (vice-president of Impact and on the Faculty at Singularity University) spoke about the state of African innovation. He was positive about the future of innovation in Africa, but he highlighted the stumbling blocks to African innovation. These included:
Although corruption is a global challenge, it was particularly high on the African continent, he said.
In terms of the impact of corruption on innovation, less has been said about the role of corporates in the corruption challenge.
In the technology sector corruption by corporates prevents start-ups from taking their inventions into markets, as established entities tend to buy their way into contracts.
This form of corruption is one of the major ways in which innovation is hampered.
Haan said the poor quality of education contributed to the lack of innovation in Africa.
The issue of education was also raised by Sizwe Nxasana, chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
In his talk on The Future of Education, Nxasana spoke about what is wrong with the education system in South Africa and called for an overhaul of how South Africa educates its young people.
All of these were challenges that could be solved, according to Haan. Blockchain was one of the key technology tools that could be used to combat corruption, he said. Wikipedia describes Blockchain as a continuously growing list of records called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.
Functionally, a blockchain can serve as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way” .
The blockchain applied in the public sector by governments can be of great benefit.
Blockchain can also lead to cost cutting through real-time auditing and the reconciliation of public expenditure.
Under normal circumstances such a process takes months and, sometimes even years for that to happen, but with a blockchain-based solution it would happen instantly.
Transparency is another benefit that can be derived by the public.
It would incentivise those in positions of authority to be prudent in the way they spend public funds. They will know that everyone can see what amount of money is going and where.
Africa's Agenda 2063 lays out future plans for the African continent.
To achieve those aspirations innovation will play a major role. It will be important to use African innovations and showcase them to inspire more innovations.
In South Africa the National Development Plan 2030, will also need innovation for further successful implementation.
The Infonomist, as part of its work in gathering information that matters, will gather data about innovations and innovators to build a repository about African innovation and hopefully this can improve Africa’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index by 2063.
Wesley Diphoko is the head of Independent Media’s Digital Lab.