Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Lets start with a few facts: First, all developed countries are advanced in technology. Second, science and mathematics are cornerstones of modern technology.
Third, there can not be industrialization without advancing in technology.
Africa, is the 'poorest' continent in the world. This is despite the fact that the continent is rich in natural resources like minerals, cultivable land, massive fresh water bodies, a mostly tropic climate etc. What lacks is the means to transform these resources into products that can be used by her people. According to the International Technology Education Association, technology is defined as "how people modify the natural world to suit their own purposes". Based on this definition, we can see that technology enables human beings to transform natural resources into products that can enhance their lives. Imagine a car, a ubiquitous example of products of technology. A car is mostly made from metal. And we know that metals are extracted from minerals which are natural resources. But what do we see? Each continent except Africa has produced its own car models but Africa as a continent is yet to produce its own car model. America has Ford, Jeep etc. Europe has Mercedes Benz, Land Rover, Fiat etc. Asia has Tata (from the Indians), Hyundai (Koreans), GWM (from the Chinese), Toyota and Mitsubishi (from the Japanese). Just to mention a few! Is something wrong with us in the African continent?
Let us take the example of the Japanese. In 1910, Japan was a very poor country. After their defeat in World War II, the Japanese concentrated on nation reconstruction through a process of industrialization. With few natural natural resources at their disposal, the Japanese borrowed technology from the industrialized Western countries and indeed later own developed their own technolgies to become one of the most industrialized countries by 1970. The Japanese have remained prosperous ever since. They are no longer scorned as the "little Japs". What do we also see from the new economic giant China? By importing natural resources from resource rich areas like African countries, China is becoming one of the leading countries in terms of economic growth through a process of rapid industrialization.
Is it a coincidence that the Japanese (and indeed all developed countries) are also advanced in science and mathematics? I do not think so. It is a fact that one cannot develop any modern technologies without any deeper scientific understanding. Science can be practical or theoretical. All are very necessary for development of modern technology. For example, the Internet which has revolutionized modern communication has its origins from the scientific community. It is therefore my opinion, that the youth in all African countries should at all cost be encouraged to pursue subjects in Science and Mathematics. I hope I am not being misunderstood as condemning or looking down on other disciplines.
electricity in most African countries?
Yes, Africa at large has a very sad history of exploitation in form of slavery and colonialism. But we need to challenge our status quo and look up to the future with hope so that one day we shall graduate from the state of being a continent with a begging bowl. We need not to dwell in the past but rather look ahead.
To finish this post, I will give an example of Malawi. In the past year or so, vast deposits of uranium and other minerals have been discovered in Malawi and are in the process of being exploited. But what do we see? The uranium mined will be exported to developed countries for nuclear power generation. Yet, Malawi currently struggles to meet its energy demands. Its hydro-electric power stations (Nkula, Kapichira and Wovwe) can not produce enough electricity. With the energy demand in the whole of Southern Africa, Malawi could have also found potential to export energy generated from nuclear power to neighbouring countries. But, clearly Malawi does not have the technological know-how of nuclear power generation, nor does she have the financial capital to build a nuclear power station.
This post was inspired by my readings of the book entitled "The Struggle for Economic Development: Readings in Problems and Policies", edited by Michael P. Todaro and published by Longman.