«ANSA Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa The search for Sustainable human development in Southern Africa Editors: Godfrey Kanyenze, ...»
Research must be informed by and have respect for the knowledge systems, desires and ambitions of urban and rural communities – particularly poor communities – and by a willingness to discover these through a process of genuine dialogue. It must also be informed by and have respect for the work of the world's leading minds in the fields of pedagogy, curriculum theory, psychology, social theory, management and leadership studies and other relevant fields. In this regard, it is important that we do not privilege the work of western scholars (as important as this is) at the expense of African and other third world scholars. Special reference is made to other chapters in this book, in particular the ones on culture and language and science and technology.
It must be stressed that neither researchers nor the leaders of civil society organisations are likely to be able to persuade governments through reasoned argument alone. Education affects everyone and a broad crosssection of the people is intensely interested in its provision. This opens the way for mobilisation of various stakeholders constituencies who have an interest in particular aspects of education and in the democratisation of education policy – teachers and lecturers, students, parents, social movements, political parties, churches, etc. – and also requires coordination among them. Any movement to democratise the education system and to provide quality education for all needs to find methods suitable to each particular country of mobilising and co-ordinating these constituencies to struggle for their interests and to co-ordinate their efforts with those of other democratic forces.
FOOD FOR THOUGHTBox 7 Science and technology, research and development
Another myth of neo-liberal economics is that globalisation and liberalisation offer the best prospect for acquiring technology, and that technology is the primary determinant of economic growth. The authors of NEPAD, for example, lay an extraordinary emphasis on technology (especially information technology) as a means for Africa to leapfrog into a new era of development.
For this to happen, they lay emphasis on the creation of the "right conditions" in Africa that would attract foreign direct investments (FDIs), which they argue will bring technology into Africa. Africa, they say, needs to plug into "dynamic value chains" by moving up the technological ladder. This, they maintain, will create for Africa a niche in the global "value chain" where it will have a competitive edge over other players.
This is illusion at its worst. Technology is not neutral. It is embedded in capital and it is controlled by whoever controls the capital. Capital and its embedded technology enable its owners to make policy on production, marketing, pricing and the distribution of income. It is an illusion to think that Southern Africa will secure this kind of embedded technology from the West and then outcompete the West. Countries such as Korea and Taiwan, as all other now advanced economies in history, were able to do it because they disembedded the technology from its capital base (by, for example, copying intellectual property and through reverse engineering), and by creating a "national" base for capital. This they were able to do during the cold war years when the West needed these countries to fight against the communist threat coming from China and Vietnam. In countries such as Korea and Taiwan the local entrepreneurs created their own national companies (national "champions"), generously supported by their governments (through credit facilities and trade barriers against foreign goods), that first secured the domestic market and then entered into competition with the Western companies in the global market.
Since the end of the cold war, this option is no longer available. Africa has missed this historical opportunity. The Asian countries had a favourable geographic position next to the threat of communist China. Now that the cold war is over, even Korea cannot expect indulgence from the US. With the financial crisis in Korea in 1997/98, the US, Europe and Japan took the first opportunity that availed itself to assert their control over the industrial and financial empire that Korea had so painstakingly created over 30 years owing to the dedication of its workers and skills of its entrepreneurs.
The only option left to Africa is to learn from what contemporary China is doing. The Chinese are developing a scientific community base as fast as possible by sending their young graduates to the US and other advanced aaaaaa
FOOD FOR THOUGHTBox 7 Science & technology, research & development (continued) countries to learn science and its application to production, and then ensuring that they (or most of them) return to China. In the meantime, the Chinese are buying discarded machinery from Western countries at the cost of scrap, for ginning as an example, and manufacturing a whole array of consumer goods.
A Capstain lathe machine, for example, that cost $100,000 some 15 years ago can now be purchased for $100 on the auction floors in Europe. For instance, in the case of Europe, the cost of labour is so high that it is no longer economical to employ these machines, even though the quality it provides is fully comparable to the computerised products.
Europe has moved on to semi-automatic, then automatic and now computerised technology to beat the wage cost. They have moved up the "technology ladder" to retain their competitiveness. (England, in the meantime, has ceased to be a manufacturing nation and has moved on to providing financial services to maintain its position in the global market). The Chinese, on the other hand, can purchase all the discarded machinery from Europe at practically no cost, reassemble it at home, employ labour at the prevailing rate in the national market (considered "cheap" by the West in comparison to their own wages), and then export quality products to the Western markets at prices that are one-tenth or one-twentieth of the production cost in the West. In another decade or so, the Chinese will control 40 to 45% of global trade in traditional consumer goods.
For Africa, the Chinese experience is an option, but not to compete against China in the export market. The wages in Africa are much higher than those in China. However, the option Africa can exercise is to buy older and discarded (but still fully usable) machinery and technology from the West (the way China does) to produce goods for the domestic (regional) markets in Africa. Above all, Africa should encourage local entrepreneurs to engage in real-time production (not the kind of speculative activities that most of them are engaged in), and then protect the domestic (regional) markets with high tariffs or other means until the domestic market is secured for national entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) either acting on their own or in partnership with the state, local communities or as co-operatives.
It is in this context that a policy on research and development (R&D) must be crafted. The importance of R&D cannot be underestimated. The R&D policy must be based on the production condition in the region, the need first to produce goods for the domestic/regional market (only secondarily for the export market), and Africa’s location within the global value chain. Africa should not use the latest technology for mass production. Africa needs labourintensive, slow moving machines that can produce enough goods to satisfy
FOOD FOR THOUGHTBox 7 Science & technology, research & development (continued)
the domestic (regional) market. Even if Africa is able to mass-produce using the latest laser beam technology, for example, and computerised machinery, where will they sell the products? The domestic market is limited, and in the export market they cannot compete either with labour-intensive products (in which China for example has a competitive edge) or in capital-intensive products. Besides, to produce using the latest technology, they will have to import all the necessary technical and managerial skills, which make the whole enterprise not only non-viable, but also worse, because in the process debt finance and an increasing burden on debt servicing will be created.
Chapter 13 An alternative science and technology strategy for Southern Africa
The development debate has hitherto treated science and technology either in passing or as a derivative of economic growth and where science and technology has been given space, it was only to point out the technological backwardness of developing countries.
It is refreshing, therefore, to note that the discipline of economics began to move away from this shortcoming with the advent of growth accounting and the new growth theories. Among the latter, it is mainly endogenous growth theories that have tried to build technology into a basic model to explain economic growth.
Be that as it may, science and technology has since evolved into an independent multi-disciplinary subject offered as a course in higher education. This alone goes a long way to emphasise the importance now attached to science and technology in development and even more so where the gap between the leaders – the developed and the developing countries – is widening and the gap is likely to be widened further by the law of uneven development that separates the leaders from the rest of the pack. Not only this, it also separates those countries trying to catch up with the leaders from the rest of the pack.
The purpose of this paper is to review the approaches that the SADC countries have taken in mobilising science and technology resources for development purposes in order to meet the aspirations of their people. In this regard, the paper assesses the effectiveness of these approaches and on that basis, the objective is to develop an appropriate alternative framework for harnessing and utilising science and technology effectively for the benefit of the majority of the populace in these countries. In other words, this paper seeks to develop a framework for the SADC region to develop and use science and technology to uplift human kind within its borders, while countervailing the effects of uneven development in a globalising world. Experiences of the South East Asian nations are examined so that lessons can be drawn from them.
The remainder of the paper consists of five sections. Section 2 below provides an overview of how African countries have handled science and technology in their development process. Section 3 looks at the state of science and technology policies and practices in the SADC region within the African context. This is followed by Section 4 that examines the experiences of the South East Asian nations with the objectives of drawing lessons of relevance for the region. Section 5 develops an alternative strategy of utilising science and technology for development that benefits the majority and Section 6 is the summary and conclusion.
2. Science and technology and development in Africa There is no doubt at all that African scholars and policy makers now recognise the importance of science and technology in development.
There are various networks of African scientists and researchers that seek to promote the utilisation of science and technology for development. The African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS) network has since the early 1980's promoted research in the area of technology acquisition and development through two sister networks, i.e. the West African Technology Policy Studies Network and the East and Southern African Technology Policy Studies Network. ATPS, a network consisting of twentythree African countries, encourages and supports multi-disciplinary research in science and technology policy to guide policy formulation and implementation.
The African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), established in 2004 with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, seeks to strengthen African academies’ ability to inform government policy-making and public discourse with independent based advice. NEPAD recognised the importance of science and technology through the setting up of a science and technology secretariat.
Recently the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) was part of a joint science academies statement: Science for African Development. The statement, in part, reads: "We, the national science academies of the G8 nations and the Network of African Science Academies, therefore call on world leaders, including those meeting at the Gleneagles G8 Summit in July 2005, to implement the following recommendations without delay.
For our part, we also commit ourselves to working with appropriate
partners towards these urgent goals:
• To recognise that science, technology and innovation underpin success and sustainability in all aspects of international development in Africa, including poverty alleviation and economic growth as well as in areas such as health and agriculture.
• For African countries to be able to develop, adapt and exploit scientific and technological solutions appropriate to their specific needs, otherwise they risk becoming ever more dependent on advice and assistance from the developed world.
• To continue to keep the development of science, technology and innovation capacity on the G8 agenda in forthcoming years.
• To regularly update development at annual summits to help maintain the momentum for change. Without embedding science, technology and innovation in development we fear that ambitions for Africa will fail". (Joint Science Academies Statement 200542).
At state level, African governments made commitments to give serious attention to matters of science and technology policy and institutions. The first Conference of African Ministers responsible for Science and Technology (CASTAFRICA I) was held in 1984. The second (CASTAFRICA II) was held in 1987. CASTAFRICA II came up with the following
recommendations, among others for African member states to:
Strengthen the planning process for science and technology by ensuring the participation of specialists from all relevant sectors in order to obtain comprehensive and adequate plans.