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SA 'shoots itself in foot' on innovation

Jul 20 2017 16:06
Carin Smith

Cape Town - If ever there was a shoot-yourself-in-the-foot type of scenario, then it is South Africa's attitude towards innovation, according to Terence Singh, director of Ruhi Consulting.

He pointed out that countries like Chile, Moldova, Malta, Greece and Cyprus are all ranked higher than SA for innovation. While SA is in 57th place globally, Mauritius is in 6th place.

"A lot of poor countries are shooting up in the innovation ratings. Many of them are in sub-Saharan Africa and SA is not one of them. As a country, from a governmental as well as private sector point of view, we are not doing what we need to in order to address why SA is ranked so poorly," Sing said at a seminar of the Cruywagen IRMSA Risk Foundation held Cape Town.

"Innovation is not one lone innovator saying 'eureka'. It is a disciplined, boring, rigorous process. Innovation is too important for you to leave it to chance. It needs a system with support."

Moreover, innovation happens more in large companies. They are not shy to buy innovation. Google, for instance, bought about 200 companies over the past 16 years and Microsoft bought about 200 companies over the past 30 years.

READ: Risk and your business

What is innovation
Having an idea is not the same as innovation, according to Singh.

Innovation is taking an idea and turning it into something which adds value, he explained.

"Creativity is not innovation and technology is not innovation either," he said.

"Innovation is becoming a priority item on the strategic agenda. It matters from a country and an economic point of view."

It is estimated, for instance, that about 50% of growth in the US is due to innovation.

"People think technology leads to job losses, but technology has been a job creation machine. Innovation contributes to economic growth and economic growth leads to job creation and more," said Singh.

"Innovation does not need Silicon Valley type technology. Look at M-Pesa in Kenya and the positive impact of the Hippo Roller for collecting water."


He said one should move away from the notion that all risk is bad.

"Are you aware of all the resources available to help you innovate better? Innovation is probably the best way out of SA's current situation," said Singh.

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