Zim lags in innovation, technology

By John Kachembere

Zimbabwe is lagging in terms of technology after the country only made a paltry 28 patent applications, latest data from the United Nations has shown.

File picture of Harare at night
File picture of Harare at night

The patent applications made by people living in Zimbabwe —the majority of which are foreigners (69,7 percent) — compares unfavourably with regional peers such as South Africa (7 497) Kenya (193) and Mozambique  (102).

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) in its Technology and Innovation 2018 report indicated that the primary obstacle to local innovation in developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) is not inadequate intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, but lack of capabilities.

“Evidence suggests that stronger intellectual property (IP) protection established under international treaties does not necessarily lead to better development outcomes in terms of local innovation and technology transfer,” the UN agency said.

“In general, strengthening patent laws has led to increased patenting by foreign rather than domestic entities. In most developing countries, local innovation in the technological areas concerned.”

This was after non-resident patent applications tripled from 264 196 in 1994 to 793 637 in 2014.

UNctad further indicated that the creation of low-cost research activities is therefore a higher priority to stimulate the knowledge economy.

“Strengthening IPRs globally was intended to encourage technology transfer to developing countries, particularly LDCs, but unresolved issues remain regarding the effectiveness of the international IP regime in this respect,” Unctad said.

“While some studies have suggested that robust IP systems may facilitate the licensing, the extent of any resulting increase in technological information. IPRs facilitate technology transfer only as part of the wider indigenous innovation system, in conjunction with industrial policy, forward and backward linkages, skilled personnel and STI and competition policies,” read part of the report.

The report also noted that building the capacity of developing countries and LDCs to foster innovation absorb technologies and leverage the IPR system is a key issue.

The experiences of several LDCs highlight the need for a more strategic approach, in order to boost absorptive capacities and harness intellectual property to promote radical innovation and technological leapfrogging.

“However, technological learning and innovation need to be appropriate to each country’s level of technological development, its economic structure and the capabilities of its public institutions and private sector.

“Allowing them policy space to tailor IP laws in line with their national innovation strategies may also promote better use of IPRs for sustainable development in the long term. Historical development experiences highlight the desirability of IPR regimes that limit the scope of patent protection and other IPRs during the early stages of industrial development,” the report added. Daily News