Technology Development and Technology Systems in Africa
The woes of Sub-Saharan African manufacturing industry are well known. One basic problem is its inability to compete both at home, when exposed to direct import competition, and in export markets. Apart from niches - say, in resource-based industries or in activities serving small, localized markets where it survives, there is little evidence of diversification or dynamism. In a world driven by rapid technical change, therefore, African industry is increasingly ‘out of the loop’, marginal to the global scene. The World Industrial Development Report 2002 of UNIDO, in which one of the present authors is directly involved, finds that most African countries cluster at the bottom of the group of developing countries in an ‘industrial performance scoreboard’. More worrying is that their lag vis-à-vis other developing regions in most drivers of industrial development is increasing rather than decreasing. Liberalization and adjustment have not changed African industrial prospects. On the contrary, where carried through intensely they have often made matters worse. African enterprises are being devastated in simple industries like clothing, footwear and the like by competition from other developing countries. Deprived of these entry-level activities, they are finding it impossible to move into complex industries where international competitiveness entails advanced skills, organizations and technological capabilities. Only a cumulative process of learning and upgrading can produce these capabilities; the learning process itself is being curtailed, even strangled. Yet it would be defeatist to argue that ‘Africa cannot industrialize’: industrialization remains the main engine of structural transformation. While not neglecting other...
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