Innovation Done in “Frugal”
Evidence from African Market
Stephen Ozoigbo, IFTIIN Foundation
What is Innovation?
 Both a process and the end result
 “New”, “novel”, “original”…
 “Important” and “significant”
Why Innovation is a Big Deal
 One of the primary ways of achieving product
differentiation, and thus competitive
 The single most important contributing factor
to long-term productivity and economic
growth (Grubler et al., 1999)
 Important to the advancement of society in
general around the world
What THEY Said about Innovation
Some more…
And Finally:
 Why you should
NEVER listen to
your customers “to
create the future
road map for your
product or service”:
need to be
reminded that it's
not the job of their
customers to know
what they don't.”
What Do They Mean?
 Innovation is a top-to-bottom, one-way linear
process from the business (or more
accurately, the entrepreneurs) to the end
 The creativities (or genius) of the
entrepreneurs are the most crucial elements
for innovation
 Usually implies huge resources/investment
And the Academia Agrees
 Innovation Chain model (Carbon Trust 2002):
That is Great, but…
 What about elsewhere in the world where
Resources are significantly restrained?
The customers know exactly what they need,
but no existing product/service can meet their
Because the customers have limited means
 Emerging trend in innovation:
Frugal innovation
What is Frugal Innovation?
 Innovation done with limited resources,
targeting customers with specific needs and
limited means
It entails making better things, not just cheaper
Frugal innovation extends to services, not just
Frugal innovation is about remodeling, not just defeaturing.
Low cost does not mean low-tech: frugal
innovation can require, or be combined with
frontier science and technology.
Our goal:
 We present our (preliminary) attempt to
formulating a theoretic framework of frugal
innovation based on case studies in African
 Why Africa?
Good reasons for optimism for entrepreneurs
in Africa
Readily available resources for innovation
remain limited in most of African nations
Cases of successful stories
Our Basic Research Framework
The Cases
 Case 1: Solar-powered low cost hearing aids
in Botswana by Godisa Technologies
 Case 2: Digital education in Kenya by eLimu
and Safaricom
 Case 3: a mobile job matching application in
Ghana by mPawa
 Case 4: mobile money transfer services in
Kenya by M-PESA
Some Common Patterns Identified
from the Cases
 Active role for target customers
 Emphases on social issues
 South-to-south, bottom-up technology
 Long-term focus of business models
 Partnership between local innovators with
expertise from developed nations
Integrated Framework for Frugal
Innovation (IFFI)
How IFFI Fits into National
Innovation System
What Else Can Practitioners Do?
 Help to establish the relationship between
developing economies and developed
economies (circle 1)
Increase Diasporas engagement in order to
create visibility for frugal innovators, their
technologies and products.
Stimulate private capital flows to frugal
innovation ecosystems through multistakeholder partnerships and matching funds
from government agencies.
What Else Can Practitioners Do?
 Provide policy suggestions regarding how to
foster, facilitate, and promote such innovation
(circle 2)
 Increase University based curriculum for
Frugal Innovation (circle 3)
 Provide successful experience / learning
lessons from other developing economies’
frugal innovation