Innovation and the development nexus: prospects from rural enterprises in South Africa
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The purpose of South Africa's White Paper on Science and Technology was to set South Africa on a path away from its historically exclusive and relatively dysfunctional National System of Innovation to one more inclusive in its representation and dealings with civil society, the private sector and the marginalised - particularly the poor. Despite the links of subsequent science, technology and innovation policies and strategies to development outcomes, the focus on the poor was notably overlooked. In the decade since the White Paper was released, the gradual and minimal 'trickle-down benefits' of innovation failed to address increasing inequality, unemployment and subsequent poverty across South Africa. Evidence from our study of four rural district municipalities, using a purposively designed snowball sampling approach, indicates that current
innovation activities in these areas appear prominent in the service or tertiary economic sector. This evidence reinforces prevailing ideas that the service sector is an important area for innovation and development, while the primary sector, including agricultural activities, remains important but perhaps less than previously emphasised. The high number of public, private and non-profit enterprises innovating in the service sector delineates this sector as a crucial entry point for innovation linked development. However, several prevailing
trends with regard to innovation networks and the diffusion of innovations exist as challenges across all three sectors. These obstacles need to be overcome if the innovation and development nexus is to be strengthened and lead to broader local socioeconomic development and economic growth.