Early Development of a Southern African System of Innovation


There is an extensive historiography of Africa’s mineral resource endowment, but it has largely neglected the innovative capacity resulting from those resources. This article reduces that gap through an analysis of the system of innovation that developed in Southern Africa around the Kimberley diamond deposits. After a brief review of the systems of innovation concept, attention turns to describing the emergent system of innovation associated with mineral resource development. Before Western mining, economic development in Southern Africa had not meaningfully established a local knowledge base beyond relatively narrow capacity around descriptive natural sciences. With mining, and especially the Kimberley diamond deposits, local capacity emerged as an initial regional system of innovation. Detailing characteristics of that system of innovation, the analysis highlights the mining sector’s early pattern of economic development as well as associated industrial and innovation policies. It also describes how the industry established routines and networks critical to the subsequent development of mineral resources and broader economic activities across Southern Africa.

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