Jonas Brunschwig

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Understanding and Accelerating Innovation Driven Ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa – Towards a Research and Technology Organization for North-South Cooperation

According to the African Union’s strategy, Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) are to play a central role in accelerating Africa’s transition to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy. Member countries are to build and upgrade research infrastructures, enhance professional and technical competencies, promote entrepreneurship and innovation, and generally provide an enabling environment for STI. Over the last ten years, innovation-driven ecosystems have emerged in numerous African cities, often developing around tech hubs and incubators. Using an analytical framework developed at MIT, this thesis assesses the innovation-driven ecosystems of Accra, Ghana; Nairobi, Kenya; and Freetown, Sierra Leone. It then explores if Research and Technology Organizations (RTOs) could be introduced as innovation intermediaries in the context of nascent African innovation ecosystems. RTOs are a category of organizations present in many high- and middle-income countries whose mission is to harness science and technology in the service of innovation. It concludes by suggesting a new model of RTO for North-South Cooperation, linking emerging ecosystems in the Global South, such as those found in Accra, Nairobi, and Freetown, with established ones in the Global North.

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