International Consultant for Production of a Study on “Technology and Innovation among MSMEs in Southern Africa”, Lusaka, Zambia

jobsnearmeafric Economic Commission for Africa

Closing date: Tuesday, 16 January 2024

Result of Service

A high quality study on “’Technology and Innovation among MSMEs in Southern Africa: Case studies from selected countries”.

Work Location


Expected duration

Six months

Duties and Responsibilities

Project Background: In light of the critical role that Science, Technology and Innovation (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 Sized 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 and the Ukraine crisis. 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. 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. 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. Based on the study findings, policy recommendations accompanied 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 findings will be reported to the ECA SRO-SA for feedback and comments. On the basis of the study findings, policy recommendations for enhancing STI in industrial MSMEs are to be put forward. Scope of Work 1.a. Issues to be analyzed and discussed In terms of literature review and conceptual/analytical framework, the study should include the following elements:

 The situation of MSMEs in Southern Africa’s industry and trade ecosystems;
 An analysis of the major competitiveness bottlenecks faced by MSMEs in the six targeted countries in the implementation of industrialisation and trade strategies and the impact of the polycrises on such bottlenecks (e.g. how the ongoing crises have exacerbated existing bottlenecks);
 A review of the literature on STI and its role in fostering industrial and trade competitiveness and business competitiveness among firms with a summary of key lessons learnt; the review should also distinguish between the different types of innovation and discuss factors affecting the design, adoption, adaptation and roll out of appropriate technological and innovation tools in different contexts;
 State of play of STI in Southern African MSMEs (including statistics on key sectors for startups in the region, performance in startup/ecosystem rankings, cooperation between MNEs and MSMEs, state of use of STI etc) including a diagnosis of the state of R&D in the public and corporate sector;
 A critical and analytical assessment of STI (actual and potential role) in addressing the competitiveness challenges faced by MSMEs in the six selected countries;
 A typology of support measures for MSMEs in the six selected Southern African countries (policy, legislative, regulatory, institutional, financial and soft measures) intended at addressing their competitiveness bottlenecks, referring to the most relevant literature, in order to provide a framework for country-level analysis;
 A mapping of support measures in place in these countries to foster STI at a national and sectoral level among firms and MSMEs, including case studies of successful schemes supporting product and process innovation in MSMEs and case studies of successful startups / innovative firms which received a specific type of support from public entities;
 A critical assessment of national innovations systems in each of the six selected countries;
 An illustration (with case examples) of how STI can foster trade and industrial competitiveness among MSMEs covering several sectors;
 An assessment of gaps to be addressed in order to foster STI and its rollout among firms and MSMEs in these countries;
 Policy recommendations on how to create and sustain a national innovation ecosystem for MSMEs in these countries and a regional innovation ecosystem. 1.b. Scope of surveys/ interviews. The study is meant to collect information and data through surveys and /or interviews to be implemented among a range of stakeholders (government, MSMEs, large enterprises, academia, donors etc). The interviews directed at government representatives should inter alia, aim to:
 Develop a comprehensive inventory of government support to industrial-based MSMEs to engage in process and product innovation. The identified instruments should be categorized per each country and based on the proposed typology;
 Gather insights on the track record of the described support measures;
 Gather views on the competitiveness bottlenecks acknowledged by the government representatives;
 Success stories and lessons learnt from government-based interventions. The surveys and/or interviews directed at representatives of MSMEs and MSMEs should inter alia, aim to: 

 Identify key competitiveness bottlenecks for MSMEs;
 Identify main challenges for rolling out process and product innovations and in designing, adopting and adapting technology to business operations and main instruments/interventions which could provide/required to deliver substantial support.
 Success stories and lessons learnt from MSME experiences in designing and applying technology and engaging in innovation. 1.c. Main questions to be addressed. The findings of the literature review, desk research, survey and non-structured interviews should allow for the following questions to be answered while addressing the issues to be analyzed and discussed as listed under Section

 What are the main characteristics of technological utilization and innovation and R&D among firms and MSMEs in Southern Africa?
 What are the instruments applied by the national governments, regional economic organisations, international donors and other relevant actors to support STI in industrial MSMEs in the six target countries?
 How are the instruments delivering on their objectives of promoting and enhancing the harnessing of STI in MSMEs?
 What are the key competitiveness bottlenecks for industrial MSMEs? How can STI address these competitiveness bottlenecks?
 How to enhance the leveraging of STI among MSMEs in Southern Africa?
 How to foster the creation of a national innovation ecosystem in the six selected countries and an eventual regional innovation system? 1.d. Methodology. The study is meant to look into the six target countries, namely Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia. The report is to apply a set of different methodological approaches, including (but not limited to):
 A literature review from relevant academic and institutional sources;
 Desk research compiling the inventory of government and other support to industrial-based MSMEs to engage in process and product innovation. The research should cover each of the countries and analyse the policies by both the national government institutions and aid agencies, international organisations, etc
 Desk research analysing available secondary sources in order to identify competitiveness bottlenecks faced by industrial MSMEs
 Survey/interviews of government officials, designed so as to identify additional forms of government support to industrial-based MSMEs to engage in process and product innovation
 Survey/Interviews among MSMEs, in order to identify competitiveness bottlenecks faced by industrial MSMEs, their uptake of STI, initiatives by MSMEs to leverage STI and assess the impact of specific policy interventions targeted at them;
 Case studies of successful schemes supporting product and process innovation in MSMEs
 Case studies of successful startups / innovative firms which received a specific type of support from public entities Duties and Responsibilities: Under the general supervision of the Chief, Subregional Initiatives Section, SRO-SA and the direct supervision of the Economic Affairs Officer, Subregional Initiatives Section, SRO-SA, the Successful Consultant will have the following list of duties and responsibilities:  Conceptualizing, developing, drafting and finalizing the study addressing the issues identified for analysis and discussions under Section 1.a. and Section 1.b. and answering the main questions raised under Section 1.c. In this regard, the consultant will:
 Define the conceptual and analytical framework for the study, including setting specific objectives for the study, spelling out research questions, and outlining the methodology;
 Draw conclusions from the research, undertake case studies for each one of the six countries (based on a template provided by UNECA) and compile the set of policy recommendations for MSMEs on the basis of its findings The consultant will perform the above, building on an existing draft that requires significant additions in order to address the ToRs.

Qualifications/special skills

Advanced University Degree (Master’s Degree or Equivalent) in technology, economics, trade, business or a relevant field is required. A first-level University Degree in combination with two additional years of relevant experience may be accepted in lieu of the Master’s Degree is required. A minimum of 5 years of relevant work experience in at least one of the following areas is required: trade, private sector development, technology, innovation and international development. Proven knowledge of the workings on MSMEs development Proven ability to write clear, practical and quality reports.


English and French are the working languages of the United Nations Secretariat. For this consultancy assignment, fluency in English is required. Knowledge of another UN Language is an advantage.

Additional Information

Not available.

No Fee


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