Inventions and patenting in Africa: Empirical trends from 1970 to 2010

Gregory D. Graff, Philip G. Pardey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Economic development is increasingly dependent upon on utilizing new knowledge to innovate and create value, even in traditional industries and in low-income countries. This analysis uses evidence on patent families to assess innovation activity throughout sub-Saharan Africa. We find patent activity in sub-Saharan Africa—both by African inventors and by foreign inventors—is comparable to similar regions around the world, when conditioned on economic size. Patent filings in Africa have grown, particularly, since the mid-1990s, but at different rates within different African jurisdictions. Types of technologies being patented in Africa have remained stable over 30 years, with most in pharmaceuticals, chemistry, biotechnology, and engineering. The majority of patent filings in Africa are from Europe, the United States, and other high income countries. Yet, in South Africa, between 15% and 20% of patent filings are by residents of South Africa, and 3% are from other developing and emerging economies. Only a small share of inventions globally are made in sub-Saharan Africa, but for those inventions that do arise in Africa, foreign filings are made widely outside of Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-64
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of World Intellectual Property
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020



  • Africa
  • intellectual property rights
  • international technology transfer
  • patent families
  • patent offices

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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