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26 March 2019

HSRC to attempt first standardised survey of innovation in the informal sector in South Africa

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Pretoria, Monday 25 March 2019 – The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology, will for the first time, undertake a standardised survey of innovation in the informal sector in South Africa. This study will be undertaken within the context of South Africa’s commitment to create the conditions for economic growth and job creation while also harnessing the potential of the digital economy and technology to achieve these goals.

Speaking in 2017, now President Ramaphosa, when reflecting on the township economy and the need to understand development and innovation in this sector said, “It is the people living in townships, informal settlements and rural towns and villages who will occupy the new jobs that growth and transformation will bring, and whose families will benefit from rising standards of living. It is in these areas that young and black entrepreneurs will emerge, new businesses will be established, new factories must be opened, new social infrastructure developed and where new technological innovations will emerge.”

With a view to understanding the innovation that currently exists in the township economy, the HSRC will conduct this study with informal businesses in Sweetwaters, KwaZulu-Natal.

According to Dr Glenda Kruss, director of the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) at the HSRC, “Innovation is a driver of successful economies around the world. To get our economy working again, South Africa must harness the full potential of its innovative capabilities. Whether in JSE-listed companies serving customers around the world, or in local businesses serving customers around the corner, innovators are vital players to our future national development.”

The survey’s lead investigator, Dr Nazeem Mustapha, a Chief Research Specialist at the HSRC, argues that our understanding of innovation in South Africa remains very limited. “This is because national studies on innovation tend to focus more on measurement within specific industrial and services sub-sectors, and much less on innovation within specific geographic communities, including township or rural communities. The resulting gaps in the research evidence makes local, provincial or national policymaking on innovation, and inclusive development, challenging.”

The study will be divided into three main stages: the first stage will include identifying enterprises to be included in the study through a geo-mapping methodology; the second will include a questionnaire to the enterprises about their innovation activities; and the third will include workshops and interviews with the informal business community and other local stakeholders.

A team of 10 research assistants will conduct fieldwork from April until July 2019 and it is expected that the results of this study will be released by the end of March 2020.
Media is invited to the launch of the study as follows:

Date    :    Wednesday 27 March 2019
Time   :    14h30
Venue :    Mpumuza Tribal Court
Sweetwaters KwaZulu-Natal
RSVPs  :    Manusha Pillai on 082 389 3587 or Researchers are available for interviews.

Notes to the Editor

About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non- governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

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For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Manusha Pillai Mobile: 082 389 3587