Failing to Compete

Failing to Compete

Technology Development and Technology Systems in Africa

Sanjaya Lall and Carlo Pietrobelli

This unique study draws on extensive fieldwork assessing technology systems in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe in the context of their export competitiveness. Its emphasis is on the role of technology systems in building industrial competitiveness and in this it finds deficiencies in the systems in all these countries, though there are also significant differences between them. Comparisons are made with more successful economies, particularly those of East Asia, and policy implications are drawn for the strengthening of technology support systems. Central to the book is its combination of academic analysis with a strong policy focus – policy implications are drawn for each case-study country.

Chapter 1: Competitiveness and National Technology Systems: An Introduction

Sanjaya Lall and Carlo Pietrobelli

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, economics of innovation, innovation and technology, economics of innovation


3615_Failing2Compete/Chapter 1 16/9/02 11:59 am Page 1 1. Competitiveness and national technology systems: an introduction This book analyses national technology systems supporting manufacturing in five African economies: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Zimbabwe. The first reaction of many readers is likely to be as follows. ‘Why look at industrial technology systems in Africa? Surely industrial development at this level does not need a “technology system”? And, given the rather parlous state of manufacturing in these countries, doesn’t technological effort take fairly low priority?’ The contention here is that ‘technology’ is vital to industrialization at all levels. This has always been so - but the new technological and competitive environment makes it even more important, and in many ways more difficult, to build the local capabilities needed. Technology ‘systems’ (the term is defined below) are vital to building industrial capabilities at the enterprise level - and such systems are extremely weak and fragile in most African countries. What is worse is that they are neglected and so are increasingly lagging behind technology systems in competing countries. The structural base of African industrial development is thus being weakened, and this should be an important consideration for development strategy in the region. The analysis seeks to illustrate the technology situation in African countries at different levels of industrialization. It draws upon fieldwork done in a fairly short period in each country. It cannot, therefore, provide detailed institutional analysis - the intention is more to describe the ‘technology system’ in broad...

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