Government must take a leadership role in driving innovation and bring the private sector along if the country truly seeks to move beyond aid, Prof. Kwaku Atuahene-Gima, President and Executive Dean of the Noble International Business School (NiBS), has said.
“Government must take a big role in promoting innovation so that organisations and companies would see it as a way of government creating the enabling environment so that companies would innovate as well.
Sometime, government can help educate private sector firms on innovation and not just provide incentives such as R&D credits and others but go further by creating the right intellectual property environment, laws and other regulations and put money in training the private sector in innovation,” he said.
Professor Atuahene-Gima was speaking exclusively to the B&FT ahead of the maiden edition of the NiBS Ghana Innovation Awards, an annual comprehensive awards programme that recognizes private and public sector organizations, teams, and individuals that demonstrate the core values of innovation in all its dimensions.
The programme, which is set to come off this Friday, November 22, 2019, at the Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel seeks to provide a notable opportunity for high-performing individuals, groups, and organizations that develop innovative products, services, business models, and implement creative organizational initiatives to be acknowledged and celebrated for their achievements.
The ultimate objective of the programme, Professor Atuahene-Gima, recognised as the world’s scholar in innovation and marketing management in the world, is to build a national initiative for innovation through national recognition, dialogue, and knowledge building and sharing.
To him, Ghana, as a nation, has not over the years taken innovation seriously and this attitude has led to the introduction and subsequent collapses of several industries in manufacturing, textiles, agriculture and services.
“Recently, it was announced that the Kumasi Shoe Factory is facing collapse. There are similar examples in Komenda Sugar Factory which have been renovated, revamped and revived but that factory is still not working.
For so many years we say that we do not want to just sell cocoa but add value. The same applies to our other raw materials but nothing is happening. This government comes in and brings the idea of Ghana Beyond Aid, which means we cannot depend on others for our future sustainability which means we have to do things differently and project a new attitude,” he said.
He advised that the new attitude is about innovation where one has to think differently to do new things. “I see the Ghana Beyond Aid idea as a call to innovation and for us to start thinking and doing things differently. That is what innovation is about. Ghana Beyond Aid is saying that we have been reliant on donations, grants, aid, and concessionary loans for a long time but it is time for us to have a new mindset about our development,” he added.
Pursuing innovation for development
He cited Hong Kong, China and the European Union as countries that placed innovation at the centre of their operations and reaped significant benefits because, to him, any country that has seen the value of innovation has taken concerted action to encourage firms to innovate.
“In countries where they have faced developmental issues in big ways, they have always relied on innovative. Hong Kong, in the 80s and 90s was derided as a copying country. But the establishment of the Hong Kong Innovation Design Council and the Hong Kong Productivity Council led to the infusion of innovation in every sphere of operation in both the public and private sector.”
Ghana is taking good steps in innovation
He pointed out that government’s agenda to digitise its operations is a major step in taking out bottlenecks in order for effective functioning of the system.
“This will allow firms that deal with government have the right processes to follow and take out the inefficiencies out of the system. This will create the right environment for firms that innovate to innovate effectively. This is why I always talk about government or public sector innovation and private sector innovation go hand in hand,” he added.
More on the NiBS Ghana Innovation Awards
The award uses elements of an established innovation management assessment model developed by Professor Kwaku Atuahene-Gima and used around the world. Following a specific set of criteria, the model assesses individuals, teams, and organizations on the full spectrum of their innovations in products, services, and organizational initiatives, and to review their performance. This process provides participants the unique opportunity to benchmark themselves against the set of criteria that mark out top innovation performers globally.