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

Gregory D. Graff, Philip G. Pardey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors sincerely thank Devon Phillips and Connie Chan‐Kang for capable research assistance, and Mats Lundqvist for advice. This analysis arose as a convergence of work under the HarvestChoice project, supported by the Gates Foundation, and the project “International Assessments of Patenting in Genetics,” supported by Grant No.: 5R01 HG004041‐03 from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. The Journal of World Intellectual Property published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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


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