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  • Cited by 12
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
November 2020
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Book description

Investigating the nature, drivers and sources of innovation in Africa, this book examines the channels for effective diffusion of innovation in and to Africa under institutional, resource and affordability constraints. Fu draws on almost a decade of research on innovation in Africa to explore these issues and unpack the process, combining a rigorous statistical analysis of a purposely designed multi-wave, multi-country survey with in-depth studies of representative cases. Building on this research, Fu argues that African firms are innovative but unsupported. Those 'under-the-radar' innovations that widely exist in Africa as a result of the constraints are not sufficient to enable Africa to leapfrog the innovation gap in the era of the fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the first comprehensive analysis of the creation and diffusion of innovation in low income countries. It also provides the first survey-based analysis of innovation in the informal economy.


Xiaolan Fu, in collaboration with African colleagues, uncovers ‘under the radar innovation' in Africa through a combination of pioneering surveys and case studies. The book offers important insights for scholars studying innovation and development and original ideas for policy makers in charge of preparing Africa for the digital future.  

Bengt Åke Bertil Lundvall - Professor Emeritus, Department of Business and Management, Aalborg University

Continuous Innovation is the main driver for reducing poverty and achieving prosperity in a country at any stage of development. Through a systematic, rigorous, pioneering field research, the book found firms in Africa is as innovative under their constraints as firms in other dynamic growing countries. Once those constraints are eliminated, African countries with their innovative firms, like China after 1978, will get out of poverty trap and grow as dynamically as other successful emerging market economies. The author also discusses what those constraints are and how to eliminate them. The book gives the confidence and policy insights about the future of Africa. I recommend the book to be read by anyone in the development studies, African policy circles and global development community.

Justin Yifu Lin - Dean, Institute of New Structural Economics, Peking University

'In collaboration with African scholars, Xiaolan Fu's path-breaking book  provides the reader with a pioneering and comprehensive analysis of the character and drivers of innovation in Africa. This is an invaluable resource for both policy makers and scholars.'

Raphael Kaplinsky - Emeritus Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, and Honorary Professor, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, and Emeritus Professor, Open University

‘Coming from a world-class Chinese scholar who acknowledges in the conclusions that her interpretation of some of the results obtained might have been constrained by her lack of ‘knowledge of the rich history, culture and economic and social diversity’ of the African continent, one rather welcomes this detailed analysis of the nature and sources of innovation in Africa, often undetected by scholars more knowledgeable about the history and industrial development of the continent. I strongly recommend this book.’

Luc Soete - Maastricht University

‘This unique work by Prof Fu on the nature, sources and constraints to innovation in an African setting richly responds to the need for filling considerable gaps in innovation studies in Africa. Rooted in academic excellence yet with accessible language, this is a book for both policymakers and academics, and I cannot propose a better work for those working in this field in Africa.’

Bitrina Diyamett - Executive Director, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization (STIPRO), Tanzania.

‘What Prof. Xiaolan Fu has done is to drill right down to the heart of the confounding task, which is to answer the questions of what, why and how relating to innovation. In this book, she digs out the kinds of innovations abounding in the national contexts and lays bare the evidence of what they are and why they are what they are … for policy makers on the continent and in development partner institutions, Prof. Fu’s book is an eye-opener to how to promote innovation to development. I fully endorse this book.’

George Owusu Essegbey - CEO and Chief Research Scientist, Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Accra, Ghana

'The research output from this book is very unique and deserves to be acknowledged as the African innovation manifesto for generating very relevant and necessary policy learning to fast-track the social, economic, environmental, gender equality and wellbeing and the health transformation of Africa. I congratulate Professor Xiaolan Fu for running the DFID research project with dedication and far-sighted vision on Diffusion of Innovation in Low Income Economies (DILIC) to finally and successfully produce this excellent high quality research output that should inspire and stimulate further deeper research.’

Mammo Muchie - DSI/NRF SARChI Research Professor On Science, Technology and Innovation, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa, and Senior Research Associate Fellow, TMDC, University of Oxford.

‘… useful entrée into the author's quite extensive research program on a salient set of issues in economic development. Recommended.’

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