UNIDO ITPO Germany -UNU FLORES cooperation on Problems for the Use of German Environmental Innovations in Africa

UNIDO ITPO Germany and UNU-FLORES signed an agreement on the framework by which the PhD student Christian Schneider is sponsored by UNIDO ITPO Germany to conduct a study on barriers to adaptation and implementation of innovations related to environmental resources in Sub-Saharan Africa. Christian P. Schneider, Doctoral Researcher, United Nations University (UNU-FLORES).

With regard to the adaptation to climate change, there is a great divergence between the Global North and the Global South. Developing countries do not have the financial means to combat the effects of climate change. Industrialised nations, on the other hand, are home to the majority of global innovations designed to mitigate these negative consequences.

This contrast is most stark with respect to Africa, home to the second largest population across all continents but only accounting for around 0.5 per cent of all patents registered in 2019. At the same time, Africa is the poorest continent and does not have the means to respond to droughts or severe flooding as has been necessary in recent years.

In this context, politicians and international organisations have long called on technology transfer to bring innovations to where they are most needed. There are remarkable similarities between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 1992 and Sustainable Development Goal 17. As only little seems to have been achieved in this regard during the past 20 or so years, the question of ‘why not?’ becomes ever more pressing.

As a UN institution supporting German enterprises in their cooperation with counterparts from developing countries, UNIDO ITPO Germany accepts that more must be done to follow these calls. In order to follow this mandate, the Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Bonn, Germany, always depends on the most up-to-date analyses. At times, however, there is a distinct lack of research to rely on.

UNIDO ITPO Germany has therefore teamed up with the United Nations University – Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) to fill this gap The cooperation between the two UN institutions opens up a promising way for understanding the complex issues hindering adaptation efforts in Africa and the role German innovations can play in support of SDG 17.

The project is run by Christian P. Schneider, a PhD candidate at UNU-FLORES. Christian has a strong academic record, completing his M.A. degree in 2020 in International Relations and Development Policy. He has practical experience working in international development for several institutions and in the context of different African countries. A political scientist by training, his research interests include the diffusion of innovations across borders, African politics and governance, as well as the adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change.

This research project will make use of the extensive network of German and African companies, policy advisors, and governmental agencies that UNIDO ITPO Germany has created. Leading scientists from UNU-FLORES will, on this basis, analyse various barriers hindering the widespread use of German innovations designed to combat the negative effects of changes to the climate and the environment. This ambitious project is therefore ideally situated at the intersection of economic realities, cutting-edge scientific research, and international cooperation. The expected output will be accordingly relevant to all stakeholders – furthering scientific research, improving businesses’ ability to expand into the growing African market. It will give policy advice to developmental agencies and ministries, and provide international investment and trade promotion agencies with new insights, to name just a few.

The main objective of the research project funded by UNIDO ITPO Germany is to analyse and understand the barriers to the adaptation of innovations related to environmental resources in Africa. The project takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining economics with political science. The research takes the perspective of German companies and looks at their collaborative activities with enterprises in Africa to implement innovations related to water, soil, waste, and energy.

Alongside mapping the existing research landscape, the project also aims to conduct several case studies centred around specific international technology transfer projects. These case studies will cover both specifics regarding the adaptation and implementation of the individual innovations and more general aspects around social acceptance, the regulatory environment, and cooperation problems. Furthermore, different country contexts and economic sectors provide the research output with a broad coverage while keeping a perspective on details and specifics through the use of a rigorous case study methodology.

This research project is expected to produce vital outputs in support of SDG 17 ‘Partnerships for the Goals’ and of importance to international trade and investment partnership offices, businesses and, ultimately, the African beneficiaries of increased technology transfer.