A quick sampling of electronic shops on Nairobi’s Luthuli Avenue easily confirms a now familiar trend; the brands that dominate the shops are the same ones that household have become accustomed.
Whether it is a camera, phone, fridge, laptop or radio on display, the product on the shelf is most likely a Huawei, Samsung, Intel, LG or Sony.
But the survey also tells a story of how multinational firms that maintain huge research and development (R & D) budgets have taken over the world markets, thanks to their continuous innovation of demand-driven products.
Last year, Chinese firm, Huawei alone submitted 5,405 patents applications, topping the list of firms seeking demand-driven product lines, latest data gathered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) data shows.
Japanese multinational Mitsubishi, US firms Intel and Alcomm Incorporated, and another Chinese firm ZTE complete the top five list of top patent seekers in that order, having submitted applications for between 2,812 and 2,080 patents last year.
The situation is completely different when it comes to Kenya. Last year local firms submitted applications for only 244 patents out of which only 10 were successful, data compiled by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) shows.
Kenyans also managed to have their 2,624 trademarks registered out of 3,654 applications submitted in 2018, the period during which 122 industrial designs were granted out of 170 requests.
“Most applicants in Kenya find it difficult to meet the technical demands of drafting a successful application. They have to hire a professional patent drafter at a cost,” Mr Sylvance Sange, KIPI managing director told the Business Daily in an earlier interview.
The fortunes of past American giants such as Kodak and Eveready Batteries, indicate that firms that fail to invent new products could be setting themselves up for imminent death.
A number of forward-looking firms are increasingly pumping billions of shillings on continuous innovation as they seek to staveoff a wave of disruptions or fixtures of obsolescence, available data shows.
Latest data gathered by Nasdaq, an American stock exchange, shows that Amazon, a US e-commerce firm, tops the list R & D spenders in the world, having set aside $22.62 billion (Sh2.3 trillion) for innovations in 2017.
The amount is almost equal to Kenya’s entire 2018/19 budget of Sh2.53 trillion.
Amazon is using the budget to explore new areas such as cloud computing, voice-based virtual assistant, cashless Go stores, drone deliveries and robotic warehouses. Other top R & D spenders in US include Microsoft, Intel, Roche Holding, Merck, Apple and Novartis.