Supporting the Innovation Ecosystem in West Africa

September 18, 2023

Interview with Olayinka David-West, Associate Dean and Professor of Information Systems at the Lagos Business School.


How has the innovation performance of Nigeria and the West Africa region fared in recent years? 

Since the inception of the Global Innovation Index, only 5 West African jurisdictions have featured consistently, 7 others intermittently, and another 5 never featuring, highlighting the challenges with data availability. The overall innovation performance of the region has been suboptimal in recent years, with countries ranking in the lowest percentile. At the onset of the rankings in 2011, Ghana ranked at 70 as the highest performance, but this has since dropped to 95th in 2022. Nigeria’s performance has not seen much variation, ranking 118th in 2021 and 114th in 2022.

How might current events be affecting the innovation landscape in the region? 

The innovation landscape is an ecosystem that is not insulated from external shocks. Given the role of government in developing the enabling environment for innovation, macroeconomic shocks like inflation, rising poverty and the like, reduce government expenditures on critical components like education and human capital. In spite of these gaps, private sector actors, especially in the fintech sub-sector, are progressing and successfully raising funds from venture capital and private equity firms.

What is needed in order to support the innovation ecosystem of your region, going forward? 

Going forward, regional governments need to understand the dynamics of this fourth industrial revolution and future opportunities for economic development and growth. Thereafter, develop an innovation strategy to build an ecosystem that addresses the social and institutional problems of each market. This requires coordination of the inter-connected parts – infrastructure, markets, institutions, etc. and collaboration (public-public and public-private).

As an Academic Network Member of the GII, how do you expect that your institution or academic community will benefit from the insights generated by this year’s report? 

Nigeria recently added Innovation to the portfolio of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, providing an opening for innovation advocacy using the insights from the Global Innovation Index. This explicit focus on innovation alongside the Nigeria Startup Act, 2022 will serve as the foundations for building a sustainable innovation ecosystem.

The 2023 edition of the Global Innovation Index will be launched globally on September 27th. For more information, including the agenda, registration information, and a livestream link, visit the GII website.

Olayinka David-West is Associate Dean and Professor of Information Systems at the Lagos Business School (LBS). She leads the Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Financial Services (SIDFS) initiative, a research and advocacy initiative dedicated to enhancing financial inclusion in Nigeria. Her research and practice engagements involve policy and strategic management interventions towards digitally transformed businesses and society.

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