Boosting innovation in Ghana
Led by Xiaolan Fu from the Technology and Management Centre for Development, Oxford University, the project has had far-reaching impacts, from influencing policy in Ghana, to contributing to the formulation and implementation of Goal 9 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
DEGRP researchers embarked on an investigation into the determinants, sources of, and barriers to innovation in low-income countries, with a focus on Ghana. Although now categorised as a low-middle-income country or ‘LMIC’, Ghana was until recently considered a low-income country, and therefore constitutes a good case for examining the role played by innovation in boosting economic growth.
Between November 2013 and January 2014, the research team surveyed more than 500 businesses to find out more about how and why they innovate, and what constraints they face. The firms researched ranged from informal micro-businesses of fewer than nine people, to large formal businesses employing over 99 members of staff, in diverse sectors such as textile and garment production, food processing, metalwork, and construction.
The survey yielded a number of interesting findings on the nature, impact, and sources of innovation in Ghana. For example, it confirmed that innovation is definitely happening, and that it’s helping both formal and informal sector firms to survive and grow. It also revealed that much of this innovation, particularly in the informal sector, is happening ‘under the radar’. That is, it typically involves the adaptation of existing technologies, rather than development or adoption of brand-new or ‘new-to-firm’ technological innovations.
Gender plays a part in innovation too, with the researchers finding that firms led by women are less likely to introduce technological innovations, but are more active in adopting non-technological innovations such as new marketing techniques.
The survey results also uncovered a number of obstacles to innovation, and technological innovation in particular, including: difficulty accessing credit; under-skilled employees; perceived economic risks of innovation; inconsistent innovation policy; and low levels of collaboration with universities and research institutions, despite their important role as gatekeepers and producers of innovation knowledge and technology.
Tags: Africa Oxford, Africa Oxford Business, Africa Oxford Projects