«ANSA Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa The search for Sustainable human development in Southern Africa Editors: Godfrey Kanyenze, ...»
In general, data on science and technology, government expenditure on R&D, number of active scientists and engineers and scientific output in Africa is quite often hard to come by. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) acknowledges this shortcoming. UIS notes that its database does not include data for every indicator for all the countries and for every year. It says that African countries in particular, are marked by a lack of data while what is available is thin (UNESCO 2003). The SADC data shown in the following table only serve to reinforce this observation. From the above table only South Africa has the most complete data set.
Currently South Africa leads the region in terms of science and technology indicators. In his analysis Kahn (2001) notes that South Africa is credited with some 17000 scientists and engineers active in R&D. The comparable figure for Malawi is 400. This reflects the great diversity in the region in
terms of science and technology resource endowments. He further notes:
"Between 1992 and1996, South Africa was ranked 27th in the world citations of papers, slightly behind Argentina and ahead of Hong Kong, Mexico and Brazil". In 1997, South Africa produced 4739 International Science Indicators publications. This output accounted for 80% of SADC's and 37% of Africa's output. Zimbabwe produced 272, Tanzania 283, Botswana 104, Malawi 106 and Zambia 107 papers. The rest of the SADC countries produced less than 100 papers. A rider is in order here. There are numerous scientific studies published in the form of consultancy reports that may not be readily available except through direct contacts with the authors or commissioners of these reports.
Notes • High-technology exports are products with high R&D intensity, as in aerospace, computers, pharmaceuticals and scientific instruments.
• Royalty and license fees are payments and receipts between residents and non-residents for the authorised use of intangible, non-produced, nonfinancial assets and proprietary rights (patents, copyrights, trademarks, franchises, industrial processes) and for the use, through licensing agreements, of the produced originals of prototypes (films, manuscripts).
• Patent applications filed are those filed with a national patent office for exclusive rights to an invention i.e. a product or process that provides a new way of doing something or a new technical solution to a problem. A patent protects the invention for the patent owner for a set period, generally 20 years.
• Trademark applications filed are applications to register a trademark with a national or regional trademark office. Trademarks are distinctive signs identifying goods or services as produced or provided by a specific person or enterprise. Trademarks protect owners of the mark by ensuring exclusive right to use it to identify goods or services or to authorise its use in return for payment.
In spite of its leadership position in the region, South Africa is still a net importer of technology. There are more non-residents applying for patents than residents, i.e. 90471 compared to 184. Similarly more is spent on royalties (US$266 million) than receipts ($49 million). Only Mozambique and Lesotho received more than they paid in royalties and licence fees, but this does not in any way suggest greater technological independence as shown by the patent applications.
Particularly disturbing is the pattern of research co-operation that the regional leader has established. Kahn notes that South Africa’s major research collaborators are with scientists in the European Union (40%) and the USA (29%). This is mainly in the area of clinical medicine.
Research co-operation with Africa is only 4%. It is further observed that between 1994 and 1999 "no fewer than 33 new agreements were in force or close to finalisation, of which one third were with African countries.
Arguably this is a suite of thrusts that promote knowledge development and transfer but the historical bias away from the SADC region remains" (Kahn 2001).
It has been observed in the literature that industry does not match agriculture in terms of research co-operation among countries. Indeed it seems that there has been a lot more exchange of international research and information and training in the agricultural and health sectors than there has been in industry. This has been made possible by the role of national agricultural research centres and extension and training centres (Evenson and Westphal 1994). Industry seems to be more characterised by secrecy than agriculture. No wonder, therefore, that South Africa's research co-operation with its neighbours is mainly in this area.
The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa has projects with all SADC states through the Southern African Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Research, but even then ARC spends only 2% of its budget with co-operating countries and less than 5% of its staff are involved in co-operating activities at any one time (Kahn 2001).
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has collaborative projects with 19 African countries including all the SADC countries. Its largest collaborative research is in environmental impact assessment and natural resource management as opposed to industrial research. The rest of the SADC region is no exception to this rule as indicated by its pattern of research co-operation that is mainly in agriculture, resource exploitation and management.
Biotechnology has the potential to uplift the living standards of people in the region. It has application in various sectors including agriculture, industry, health and education. The development of scientific and technological capabilities in this area can be a strong pillar in improving the livelihoods of people in the Southern African region in accordance with the objectives of RISDP as RISDP has taken positive steps in strategising with regard to the development of biotechnologies. To this end, in 2003, SADC set up an Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and Bio-safety comprising researchers from the region. This was to assist in developing national and regional harmonised legislation on biotechnology and biosafety.
The committee has since drafted a regional framework on the safe handling and transboundary movement of genetically modified organisms and a regional project proposal on biotechnology and bio-safety.
Another important area in the sphere of science and technology that has potential for bringing about rapid development and improvements in the living standards of poor countries such as those of Southern Africa, is ICT.
The table below shows some indication on the level of ICT development in the region based on connectivity indicators as a proxy.
Table 4. SADC information and communication indicators
Source: 2005 World Development Indicators, www.worldbank.org/devdata. N.B. 2001∗ While the ICT indicators reflect connectivity, they also tend to follow the income groupings seen above. As already intimated in the introduction to this paper, there is always the looming danger of a few countries breaking away from the rest in terms of development43. This danger looms large in ICT development too where the distribution of apparatus per capita follows the income per capita patterns observed earlier on. High levels of personal computers and telephony per capita are good for science and technology development in terms of information. It can be assumed that it enables researchers to network easily and break isolation. However, the above figures unfortunately say nothing about connection speeds and bandwidth problems. Neither do they say anything about access to subscriber Websites. In countries where foreign exchange is a problem, researchers do not have easy access to these Websites, thus severely constraining their work. In such circumstances researchers become dependent on donors to finance their subscriptions to these websites.
Once a donor steps in, the research agenda is already compromised.
Also deserving mention in relation to regional co-operation are the indigenous knowledge systems. There is no doubt that people surviving without the use of and access to formal research and its results develop their own tried and tested means of verifying facts. This is particularly so in the fields of medicine, agriculture and natural resource use. For instance, through the study and observation of the behaviour of wild animals, people in the rural areas might be able to predict climate and weather changes. A case in point was the behaviour of fish in the sea and animals on land that preceded the Tsunami disaster in Asia. There is every reason to believe that such knowledge exists in Southern Africa. The issue is in determining how to tap it while protecting the intellectual property rights that go with it, and in making sure that the commercial application benefits the communities from where it emanates.
In conclusion to this section, it is quite clear that research and science and technology linkages are not as strong as they should be in order to close regional disparities. Similarly, linkages with industry are not that strong if they can be described as such. The existing technology model in the SADC is captured in the figure on the next page.
As can be seen from this diagram, it is perhaps only agriculture that has a complete information flow. But this does not necessarily extend to capital goods for the sector, nor is it meant to suggest that the existing science and technology level in agriculture is anywhere near ideal.
N.B. Unfortunately, this distribution may not necessarily reflect the level of science and technology infrastructure on the ground.
Figure 2. Existing SADC science and technology information flows
Industry has the strongest links with the Empire and very weak links with both agriculture and the small industrial informal economy. Neither does it maintain links with the local national innovation system. The whole impetus of the intervention in science and technology is to suggest ways of re-directing the flow of the lines depicted in the diagram. One explanation for this state of affairs that is supported in the literature is the weak domestic capital goods sector that provides inter- linkages between the various sectors. The dualism noted by the ANSA approach suggests that linkages between the large informal sector and formal industry are weak, at least in the technological sense. An examination of experiences elsewhere can provide a clue on how to get around this state of affairs.
5. Lessons from South East Asia
As in the "Japan Studies" i.e. academic industry that was fascinated by the Japanese miracle and its efficiency, there has been similar fascination with what the World Bank termed the "East Asian Miracle" (World Bank 1993). In this publication, the East Asian experience of the "Four Tigers" is touted as an example for other developing countries and a case for the benefits of free market forces. In fact the Bank went so far as to suggest that in cases where there had been selective interventions to foster industrialisation by these countries, they were generally ineffective.
In drawing lessons for our own experience, it becomes clear that East Asian countries did not follow similar strategies and they, therefore, have to be looked at individually. To this experience is added Japan, which in many respects is a trailblazer in rapid development although it must be emphasised that Japan emerged from a war-ravaged country to an industrial and technological superpower.
Hong Kong and Singapore are useful starting points in clarifying the dissimilarities among these countries. To begin with, they share some similarities in terms of geography and history. Both are city-states with no significant agricultural interests, they are both former British colonies and served as entrepots trading ports with Hong Kong serving trade with Mainland China and the rest of the world while Singapore served as a conduit for trade by Malaya and Indonesia with the rest of the world.
After the Second World War, both economies developed large manufacturing sectors that were dependent on exporting textiles, clothing, electronics and finally (financial) services and both received large settler populations from Mainland China after the war. However, here ends their similarities. Hong Kong pursued largely a laissez faire approach in its policies while, since the 1960s, Singapore pursued an interventionist strategy with a large influx of foreign direct investment. The capital accumulation achieved by Singapore was through forced national savings, i.e. chiefly an extensive taxation of labour income. The result of this was that the share of investment in GDP rose from 9% in 1960 to 43% in
1984. This contrasts with Hong Kong's figures of an average of 20% over the same period (Young et al. 1992). The upshot of this investment was that, despite its manufacturing starting 15 years behind that of Hong Kong, it came to surpass the latter largely through its interventionist strategies.
By the mid-1970s, Singapore had completed the shift from light manufactures to the more sophisticated electronics goods. The latter rose from 8.4% of manufacturing employment in 1971 to 25.2% by 1980. "In 1980 Singapore did not produce any computer components or peripherals.
By 1983 Singapore was the largest producer of computer disk drives in the world" (Young et al. 1992).
On the other hand the less sophisticated products dominated Hong Kong's economy. By 1976 its clothing accounted for 36.1% of manufacturing employment while the electronics share of manufacturing employment grew from 0.4% to 9.1% between 1963 and 1974. Hong Kong grew to become the largest exporter of electronic watches by 1979. However, in the late 1970s, the share of manufacturing in employment declined as entrepreneurs moved to Mainland China following reforms in the latter.
Financial services grew in its place.
The net result of Hong Kong's non-interventionist approach was that there was no technological deepening similar to the other NICs. It remained generally in the light industries. As wages went up and entrepreneurs shifted to Mainland China, it lost 35% of its manufacturing employment between 1986 and 1992 (Lall 1995).