Original Articles

The state and innovation policy in Africa

DOI: 10.1080/20421338.2014.983731
Author(s): Banji Oyelaran-OyeyinkaUN-HABITAT, Nairobi. Kenya and UNU-MERIT, The Netherlands


This paper examines the role of African states in the process of industrialisation. It sets out to examine the nexus of state capacity, innovation policy and the dynamics of development. The methodology is largely qualitative through which a historical narrative of governmental investments in large industries most of which failed is related. While we attribute much of industrial failure to a ‘weak’ state, we recognise the difficulty involved in of the process of technological learning to industrialise in an environment of underdevelopment. The paper recognises state capacity building as a complex multi-level undertaking that must put collaborative learning as a central plank of development. The country encountered a process of industrialisation that is complex because states need to provide coordination among very many disparate actors using a bureaucratic outfit that was short on the fundamentals of science technology and industrialisation processes. We recommend a regime of sustained state capacity building whereby the Nigerian state and by extension other countries, continuously learn from its past shortcomings while learning to coordinate all the critical actors to take advantage of the prospective growth surge across African countries.

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