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Innovation, Technology, and Development: Africa Can Leapfrog

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How can Africa leapfrog its development to match the world average? This question has been dogging many in the developmental spheres; and has been dwelt with recently by the Investing in Africa Forum (IAF).

IAF is an initiative set up as a global platform for multilateral cooperation and promoting opportunities to increase investment in Africa and was established in 2015 by the China Development Bank. To date the Chinese government, the World Bank Group and several African countries has committed themselves to this cause.

Under this framework of Leapfrogging Africa’s development, six topics (sectors) were identified (a) agriculture, (b) education,(c) energy,(d) finance,(e) governance,(f) information and communications technologies.

This review will focus on (a) agriculture and (f) information and communication technologies, respectively. May l hasten to state that the rest are ‘indepthly’ covered in the report Leapfrogging: The Key to Africa’s Development which in any case forms the main source of this blog

Leapfrogging: Agriculture

More than 60 percent of Africa’s people live in rural areas and the region’s economy is depended on agriculture; yet agricultural productivity remains lower than other regions.

The region lags in investment in agriculture’s in terms of mechanization, irrigation, pesticides and many other support services to agriculture such as infrastructure and weak institutional support to farmers.

Many solutions have been offered to raise agricultural productivity in Africa and in most cases these are influenced by a coaxial relationship between technology adoption and sustainable farming by smallholders – who are estimated to be producing up to 80% of the food consumed by Africa (IFAD 2010).

Besides the technological adoption, some of the solutions cited include, the application of biological, chemical and mechanical methods, improving farmer knowledge and investing in technologies outside the farm sector (applied technologies).

Therefore, conditions for leapfrogging agriculture are

  • Investment into research and development
  • Adoption of entrepreneurial innovation ecosystems
  • Investment in rural infrastructure
  • Improving skills and education of rural farmers
  • Financial investment in agriculture

Leapfrogging: Information and Communications Technologies

ICTs and especially mobile networks and gadgets have grown exponentially in Africa. Africa’s mobile penetration continues to increase. There are 960 million mobile subscriptions across Africa, representing an 80 percent penetration rate

There is however still potential in improving broadband infrastructure, lowering costs and spreading the geographic coverage in rural areas – where farming communities are.

Agriculture is already benefiting from services such as mobile cash transfer, mobile marketing systems, and mobile extension services and mobile weather service amongst many mushrooming bouquet of m-services.

China’s digital transformation (and other Asian countries) is a model that African countries can copy in back dropping on ICTs as a leapfrogging strategy. Bearing in mind that a technological breakthrough in one sector can spill over to other sectors.

Emerging digital technologies, such as mobile phone applications, sensors, drones, satellites, etc. may transform agriculture and rural livelihoods. The costs are coming down and this supports a low market penetration and this becomes a low hanging fruit for adoption within agriculture.


Gains are already visible, Kenya has embraced mobile telephony and Rwanda has led in ICT policy support and implementation; it still remains to be seen how the above elaborately described mechanisms will leapfrog the respective individual African countries. For a listing of ICT developments in African countries click here . Why not peruse this report and explore other four leapfrogging strategies offered, and also read in depth the ones discussed above.

More information here


The above piece relies heavily on ideas published in this report

Blimpo, Moussa Pouguinimpo; Minges, Michael; Kouamé, Wilfried A.; Azomahou, Theophile Thomas; Lartey, Emmanuel Kwasi Koranteng; Meniago, Christelle; Buitano, Mapi M.; Zeufack, Albert G.. 2017. Leapfrogging: the key to Africa's development - from constraints to investment opportunities. Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/121581505973379739/Leapfroggin...


IFAD (2010) Rural Poverty Report 2011, IFAD, available at http://www.ifad.org/rpr2011/