SA ranked most innovative country in sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa has been ranked the 58th most innovative economy in the world - and the most innovative in sub-Saharan Africa, according to new a global innovation index.

The Global Innovation Index 2018 placed SA one place below fellow BRICS member India in 57th place, and ahead of Brazil and Egypt.

As in previous years, Switzerland was rated the most innovative country. It was followed by the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and Singapore.

The US was placed sixth, while China entered the top 20 for the first time, taking the 17th spot.

The annual ranking was published Tuesday by Cornell University in the US, INSEAD business school, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). 

It ranks 126 countries based on dozens of different business indicators, including foreign direct investment, the pupil-teacher ratio in secondary schools, the provision of domestic credit to private sector, venture capital deals, and more. 

The report’s authors noted that SA was improving in the quality of its science papers and its universities, especially for the University of Cape Town, the University of Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch University.

"[SA] shows strengths in its sophisticated market and business sector.

"Other strong indicators: access to credit, market capitalisation, university and industry research collaborations, cluster development and intellectual property payments."

South Africa was found to have the highest rate of market capitalisation as a percentage of GDP in the world. This is calculated by a comparing a three-year average of the market value of domestically listed companies with the country's GDP. 

But SA’s innovation score was hampered by low foreign direct investment inflows, poor pupil-teacher rations in secondary schools, and a low rate of tertiary enrollment. 

SA was rated at 101 out of 126 in the ease of starting a business metric, and also fared badly in the in the provision of microfinance gross loans.

China on the rise 

The study's authors said that China appeared to be prioritisng "research and development-intensive ingenuity".

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in a statement that China's rapid rise up the table reflected decision by its leadership to develop capacity in innovation and to move its economy towards knowledge-intensive industries.

"It heralds the arrival of multipolar innovation," he said. 

Yemen, meanwhile, was rated the least innovative country among the 126. 

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