OECD Reviews of Innovation Policy: South Africa 2007

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A comprehensive assessment of the innovation system of South Africa, focusing on the role of government, and providing concrete recommendations on how to improve policies which impact on innovation performance, including R&D policies.

Post-apartheid South Africa has succeeded in swiftly opening its economy to international trade and capital flows, and in stabilising the economy while achieving reasonably good growth performance, mainly driven by productivity gains. However, important socio-economic problems persist, especially unemployment, poverty and the exclusion of a large fraction of the population from the formal economy. The country is now in the middle of two more specifically economic transitions: i) responding to globalisation and ii) transforming the structure of the economy away from its former heavy dependence on primary resource production and associated commodity-based industries. In this context, enhancing innovation capabilities is key to a sustained improvement of living standards based on productivity-driven growth. This review assesses the national innovation system of South Africa from this perspective, identifying areas and means for improvement with an emphasis on the role of public research organisations and policies.


An Innovation System in Transition: Main Features and Current Policy Challenges

This chapter reviews the transformation of the South African innovation system since the early 1990s. It first recalls key features of the system as it was at the beginning of that decade and which must have seemed at the time to offer very limited prospects for meeting the goals of a radically changed society as it entered an unfamiliar international and rapidly evolving environment. It then turns to the present and highlights the considerable success achieved in broad areas of the system’s performance in spite of the unpromising initial conditions. It moves on to describe some of the sources of that success: recent policy developments, the structures developed for policy-making and implementation, and certain features of the main research and innovation performers. It concludes by noting some of the challenges still to be addressed.


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