SRO-SA International (principal) consultant for the conceptualization and development of a study on ‘’Technology and Innovation among MSMEs in Southern Africa at United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

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Work Location: Remote

Expected duration

The assignment will be completed and delivered in Five (5) work months


The total fees for the assignment will be US$25,000 to be paid in two instalments. The first payment of US$10,000 will be made after the submission of a satisfactory first draft report. The second and final payment of US$15,000 will be made after the submission of a satisfactory final report incorporating the comments/updates and all other mentioned deliverables.

Duties and Responsibilities


  • The advent of the COVID 19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the role that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) can play in supporting member states and in particular Micro, Small and Medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) address the impacts of unexpected shocks. The pandemic has also highlighted the critical need for African, including Southern African economies to reduce their dependence on commodity exports and on narrow economic and export bases and engage in avenues of economic diversification, driven by structural transformation and in emerging or new sources of economic growth. Some of the most promising prospects for economic transformation and new sources of growth lie in commodity-based industrialization, non-resource based manufacturing, digitalization, driven among others by the roll-out of STI by MSMEs and the private sector. STI can be an important driver of productivity growth and industrial upgrading and diversification.
  • Industrialization is widely recognized as the key source of growth for the future of the Southern African economy. Promotion of industrial growth is at the core of African Union’s Agenda 2063. The African Development Bank also prominently features industrialization at the core of its recommendations for Africa’s growth. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) included industrialization as the first pillar of its vision and roadmap for 2050 while the SADC industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 embodies the commitment of SADC member states to make industrialisation a priority to advance economic development. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Industrialisation Policy (2015-2030) reiterates the need to reduce dependence on raw commodity exports and promote value-addition through industrialization. Lessons from the development experiences of South-East Asia, among others, indicate that industrialization may be a pathway out of poverty. The cross-sharing of experiences and best practices within the region and across regions and continents can serve to accelerate the effective implementation of national and regional industrialization strategies. Within industrialization, STI including digitalization is widely considered as an essential driver of industrial competitiveness, as reflected in the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063.
  • The 2021 African Economic Outlook (AEO) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) stresses the need to launch ”an accelerated digitalization— an all-out effort to harness digital technologies—to propel Africa into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and boost job creation”. COVID-19-induced economic lockdowns and other containment measures have propelled many companies to increase their use of digital technologies. The 2021 African Economic Outlook (AEO) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) notes that “the accelerated digitalization in Africa resulting from pandemic-related containment measures continues to boost the productivity of human and physical capital in the private and public sectors” and could become an important force propelling forward economic development.
  • In a second-round online business survey, in which SRO-SA was a collaborating partner along with the ECA African Trade Policy Center (ATPC) and International Economics Consulting (IEC), the resort to technology and innovation by African firms as a lever for addressing the economic impact of Covid-19 was confirmed . Indeed, while the share of e-commerce revenues remained relatively small among surveyed firms (about 16 per cent), nearly half (i.e. 47 per cent) of the companies surveyed indicated that they are moving or planning to move towards innovative solutions through collaboration/partnerships.
  • Innovation and the application of technology have been widely recognized as important sources of growth, in developed and developing countries alike. Innovation may emerge as an outcome of cooperation between firms and universities/research entities or be the product of R&D by individual enterprises. In developing countries, innovation should also be pro-actively supported by the state and supplied as a public good to MSMEs to whom the costs of R&D may be prohibitive. Increased uptake of STI among MSMEs can in turn benefit industrial transformation. The capacities of MSMEs to adopt technology, and engage in locally adapted innovation have to be addressed through well-targeted support, measures and incentives.
  • Furthermore, the successful rollout and uptake of technological and innovative solutions by MSMEs in developing markets, even with the right form of support, largely depends on the capacity of MSMEs to overcome competitive bottlenecks on the local markets to survive and grow. Based on the available literature and survey/reports carried out to date, key bottlenecks which may be identified include lack of access to finance, difficult conditions for setting up a business, lack of qualified workforce, lack of access to markets, lack of insertion in regional and global value chains, amongst others. The successful identification of the most relevant bottlenecks could allow for most accurate targeting thereof, in order to maximise positive impact on MSMEs in the region. STI can also play a role in addressing these bottlenecks directly.
  • In light of the critical role that STI can play in the development of MSMEs to enable them to be effective drivers of industrialization and industrialization through trade, the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa (SRO-SA) is currently implementing a technical assistance project, funded under the UNDA 13th tranche, titled “Innovative approaches for MSME competitiveness to promote trade and inclusive industrialization in Southern Africa in the Post-COVID context”. The objective of the project is to strengthen capacities of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in six selected Southern African member states (Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia) to design and apply innovative approaches to enhance their competitiveness so that they can be effective private sector enablers of trade and inclusive industrialization and build resilience to unexpected shocks such as COVID-19. This project will focus on how MSMEs can leverage innovative approaches to address competitiveness challenges during and after adverse shocks. There are two components to this project: the first component focuses on strengthening capacities of MSMEs in the private sector to address competitiveness challenges that impede them from participating effectively in inclusive industrialization processes (COVID and Post-COVID); the second component focuses on strengthening capacities of MSMEs in the private sector to address challenges that impede them to trade effectively (COVID and Post-COVID).
  • What are innovative ways? MSMEs could be investing or could invest in innovative approaches, either on their own, with Government support or through public-private partnerships, depending on the sector and country context. Examples of such innovative approaches are the development and application of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), including digital technologies. Other innovative approaches may refer to locally-grown, endogenous solutions to address specific competitiveness and trade-related challenges.
  • As stated in the UNDA 13th tranche project document “Trade and industrialization are two sides of the same development coin”. STI should be designed, adapted and utilized to support MSMEs to address competitiveness challenges in the production of industrial goods and related services as well as in their marketing and trade.
  • As Southern Africa aims to build back better post-COVID, an analysis of the state of STI in the subregion and its adoption, utilization and harnessing by MSMEs in the industrial sector to address their competitiveness challenges is highly timely and relevant. This will include identifying gaps in existing policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks and in current industrialization and trade strategies.

Objectives of the consultancy and of Study.

  • In view of the above, a study has been conceived within the UNDA 13th tranche project in order to develop a diagnostic assessment of the state of STI by industrial-based MSMEs in the six target countries (Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia), including an inventory of government support to industrial-based MSMEs to engage in process and product innovation, develop and apply technology, complemented by an overview of competitiveness bottlenecks faced by industrial MSMEs as well as impacts of Covid-19 and inventory of innovative approaches to address them. Based on the study findings, policy recommendations accompanied by an action plan on how MSMEs can design and apply innovative approaches are to be developed.
  • The work on the study will include literature review and desk research on support measures applied by governments for industrial MSMEs rolling out product and process innovations, as well as a catalogue of competitiveness bottlenecks faced by innovating industrial MSMEs. The study should also look into the impacts of Covid-19 and compile an inventory of innovative approaches to address them. Moreover, a survey covering both government officials and representatives of MSMEs is to be conducted in each of the countries covered by the project. The findings will be reported to the ECA SRO-SA for feedback and comments. On the basis of the study findings, policy recommendations accompanied by an Action Plan for enhancing STI in industrial MSMEs are to be put forward.

Duties and Responsibilities

The principal consultant will work under the direct supervision of the SROSA Economic Affairs Officer (project manager) and under the overall guidance of the Chief of the Sub-regional initiatives Section. The consultant will also work closely with the secondary consultant, other members of the project team and project steering committee members to ensure a successful and timely delivery.

The principal consultant will have the responsibility of allocating tasks within the team and act as team leader. In this regard, the principal consultant will:

  • Take the lead in drafting and finalizing the study;
  • Work with the secondary consultant to allocate tasks and ensure a comprehensive delivery on the study, defining its building blocks and assigning responsibilities;
  • Define the conceptual and analytical framework for the study and report, including setting specific objectives for the study, spelling out research questions, and refining the methodology;
  • Support the development of the survey instruments to be administered by the secondary consultant, including designing the questionnaire, identifying respondents, etc;
  • Draw conclusions from the research and compile the set of policy recommendations and action plan for MSMEs on the basis of its findings

Qualifications/special skills

  • Academic Qualification: An Advanced University Degree in any of the following: economics, industrial economics, international development, technology and innovation, business management or any of the relevant social science fields is required.
  • Experience: A minimum of Ten (10) years’ professional experience in any of the following: industrialization, regional integration, international trade, international development, science, technology and innovation, business management, economic development, preferably in Southern Africa with extensive knowledge and understanding of innovation systems and MSMEs is required.
  • demonstrated knowledge of innovation support measures for industrial MSMEs and knowledge of the SADC region;
  • sound language skills in English;
  • proven record in drafting technical reports and presentation of technical papers.
  • Language: English and French are the working languages of the United Nations. For this Post, fluency in English is required.

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