Asian Lessons for Africa on Integration & Innovation - Report

Regional integration, innovation and competitiveness interact dynamically. A new report Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII, which was launched during the Africa Development Week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, examines how regional integration (i.e. bringing networks of people, institutions and markets together) creates the cross-pollination of ideas and experiences that spurs innovation, contributing to competitiveness within economic blocs. Chapter 6 of the report describes lessons Africa can draw from the experience of India and South East Asia nations on regional integration, innovation and competitiveness. Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII is a joint publication of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). More on ECA in this BRIEFING.


Africa may be able to draw lessons from India’s expansion of tertiary education, which generated a human capital base with highly developed STEM expertise. India even “exported” many of its best scientists and technologists, although this was seen at the time as evidence of a “brain drain.” But in the interconnected world of the late 20th and early 21st century, the brain drain is turning into a gain. Though the African diaspora is also connected to its homeland and it already contributes to science, technology and innovation trends on the continent, a key challenge is to better tap this resource - 2016 Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII (Picture: University of Ghana students listen to their political science professor, Dr. Evans Aggrey-Darkoh in Accra, Ghana on October 14, 2015)


Along the lines of India’s National Innovation Foundation (which gives financial support to innovators), African countries should consider regional innovation funds that can pool financial and human resources. It is equally important to establish affordable regional institutes of excellence for higher education in science and technology to attract the best talent from across Africa. Institutes of vocational education and training should also be established at subregional and regional level. India has done much to leverage the benefits of its diaspora for policy and research. An Africa-wide initiative should tap the continent’s diaspora in industrialized countries - 2016 Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII (Picture: Tolullah (Tolu) Oni - Next Einstein Fellow )

An economic bloc like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’ overall objective is to create a regional economic community and single market... As a regional integration scheme, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has evolved in response to specific needs and market forces rather than by any grand design... Lessons for Africa from the ASEAN reflects... its minimalist or “soft” approach" to regional integration... a model of country-level implementation of regional policies and action plans rather than regional frameworks - 2016 Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII (Picture: Dignity factory workers producing shirts for overseas clients, in Accra, Ghana)