UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Understanding innovation in the African informal economy

10 May 2021, 3:30 pm–5:00 pm


Join us for this talk as part of the IIPP Seminar Series, as Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Professor of Economics at University of Johannesburg discusses her research on understanding innovation in the African informal economy.

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Mainstream studies on innovation consider innovation processes as largely driven by expenditures on formal R&D and the input of engineers and scientists with third-level degrees. This bias in the literature has led to the view that informal enterprises, which constitute the majority of Africa’s enterprise base, are non-innovative. Building on an existing critique largely emerging from developing countries, this seminar will discuss the evidence from various studies exploring the nature of innovation and underlying capabilities in the African informal sector. The seminar will also discuss some policy implications.

Background material linked to this seminar

Kraemer-Mbula, E. and Wunsch-Vincent, S. (Eds.). (2016). The informal economy in developing nations. Cambridge University Press.

Kraemer-Mbula, E., Lorenz, E., Takala-Greenish, L., Jegede, O. O., Garba, T., Mutambala, M. and Esemu, T. (2019). Are African micro-and small enterprises misunderstood? Unpacking the relationship between work organisation, capability development and innovation. International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, 11(1), 1-30.

Read more about the IIPP Seminar Series 2020-21

About the Speaker

Erika Kraemer-Mbula

Professor of Economics at University of Johannesburg

Erika Kramer Mbule
Erika's work focuses on alternative development paths for African economies. She specialises in the analysis of innovation systems in connection to equitable development and inclusive development. Erika is currently the Chairholder of the DST/NRF/Newton Fund Trilateral Chair in Transformative Innovation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development, based at the College of Business and Economics (University of Johannesburg) and in partnership with the African Centre of Technology Studies (ACTS) in Kenya and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) in the UK. She has been recently appointed Visiting Professor at IIPP. Erika is also a member of several research networks related to innovation and development – such as Vice-president of Globelics, advisory board member of Africalics and Steering Committee member of the Open African Innovation Research (OpenAIR) network.


More about Erika Kraemer-Mbula