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[DURBAN] Kenya is still the second most innovative country in Sub-Saharan Africa according to this year's rankings, despite political turmoil after the 2007 elections.

The country ranked 48 out of 133 in the 2009/2010 Global Competitiveness Report, released by the World Economic Forum yesterday (8 September).

It dropped just six places from last year's 42 and retained its position behind South Africa — 41 in the rankings this year — in the Sub-Saharan Africa category. The country is struggling with the aftermath of violence following the December 2007 elections including lower food production and a drop in tourism revenue.

Kenya is an interesting case, says Jennifer Blanke, senior economist for the World Economic Forum and one of the authors of the report, because countries usually do not focus on innovation until they reach a more advanced stage of economic development.

The country has impressive private spending on research and development (R&D), good research links between research institutions and the business sector and boasts a pretty stable performance since last year, says Blanke.

Its ranking for company spending on R&D and university-industry collaboration remained unchanged at thirty-seventh and fortieth respectively.

"Kenya is starting to get the complex productivity drivers right and would be well served by improving on more basic areas such as government institutions, health and security," says Blanke.

The annual report, a collaborative effort by the World Economic Forum, the African Development Bank and the World Bank, assesses the relative competitiveness and costs of doing business in countries.

It identifies three major development stages, with innovation becoming increasingly important as economies grow in sophistication.

According to Blanke other Sub-Saharan African countries rank quite low for innovation, which is not yet a problem because they are in an earlier development stage, but she noted Namibia's rise from 111 to 103 in the table this year, largely because of the country's improving scientific research institutions and increased patenting.

Tanzania also improved — from 101 to 93 — with an improved ranking in many subcategories.

Many other African countries improved. In southern Africa, Botswana climbed to 71, Lesotho to 95, Madagascar to 84, Mozambique to 105, and Zambia to 90.

In the west, Burkina Faso was ranked at 76, Benin 89, Cameroon 102, the Gambia 72, Ivory Coast 104 and Senegal 54. Burundi and Chad camein at 116 and 120 respectively.

Malawi and Mauritania's position remained unchanged at 94 and 125. Those that dropped included Nigeria (73), Mali (81), Mauritius (85), Uganda (98), Ethiopia (112), Ghana (115) and Zimbabwe (124).

Link to report