Switzerland retained its top place this year, followed by the Netherlands and Sweden.
The Global Innovation Index 2018 placed SA one place below fellow BRICS member India in 57th place, and ahead of Brazil and Egypt.
The United States came second after China in the volume of researchers, patents and scientific and technical publications, according to the ranking. While the United States fell back to No. 6 in the GII 2018, it is an innovation powerhouse that has produced numerous world's leading high-tech firms and life-changing innovations.
"China's rapid rise reflects a strategic direction set from the top leadership to developing world-class capacity in innovation and to moving the structural basis of the economy to more knowledge-intensive industries that rely on innovation to maintain competitive advantage", Gurry said.
WIPO is a specialised agency of the United Nations.
Kenya was noted to have achieved high levels of innovation relative to its level of development, continuously since 2011.
Africa's most innovative economies were able to attract higher foreign direct investments (FDI) that translated into more jobs for the youth and increased revenue streams to support social sectors like education and health, although investments in ICTs and creative industry were behind modernization of economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam continue to move up the rankings, steering closer to regional leaders like China, Japan, Singapore, and Republic of Korea.
The 2018 report launched in Nairobi and NY on Tuesday with the theme "Energizing the World with Innovation", says harnessing of science and technology, higher education and skilled labour has significantly enhanced competitiveness of African economies.
The report recommended that more investment be channelled towards the production of clean/green energy as it is projected that by 2040, the world will need about 30% more energy than it requires today.
"Being ranked fifth in a credible global study gives greater impetus for our enterprises and entrepreneurs to keep using innovation and leveraging their intangible assets to grow from Singapore to the world".
India ranks well in a number of important indicators: productivity growth, exports of information and communication technology and services. "The Indian government and CII are working closely with the GII team to further improve the Indian innovation performance", said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the CII.