Prof. Norman Clark speaks at STS-Africa meeting in South Africa

The conference, in response to experiments in both modernity and technological development in post-colonial Africa, sought to better understand the four novel developments of: new strategic visions, articulated in both new development paradigms and analyses of the growing levels of global investment in African economies; new conceptions of modernising interventions at the intersection of development, capital accumulation and global concerns; the proliferation of new technologies of impartial governance in political and economic management; and, the rise of African self-reliance and determination, involving the heightened prominence of African actors, ideas and choices in the project of modernisation at all levels.

Norman Clark spoke on 'Technology Development for the Low Income African Farmer: Science Policy Implications for Overseas Aid.'; He explored how British bilateral aid in the natural resources sector became concerned about the productive value of scientific research it had been funding, which led to the RIU programme that was designed to put scientific 'knowledge' into productive use. He summarised the rational and inception of the programme, with particular focus on its'Best Bets' component, which set out to involve the private sector as a key component of technology development in small scale African agriculture.

More about the STS-Africa meeting

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Local pharma in Africa: going nowhere, slowly?

Julius Mugwagwa, reflects on status of pharmaceutical industry in Africa based on his recent visit to South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

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Helping Africa to thrive in a changing global economy

Helping Africa to thrive in a changing global economy

The burgeoning economies of some rapidly developing countries, notably China, India and Brazil, are shifting the global balance of power dramatically.

Nowhere has the impact of these so-called ‘rising powers’ been greater than in Africa, where Chinese trade and investment now outstrips that of the West.

But while China has a coherent Africa policy, Africa lacks a coherent response to China’s growing involvement in the continent’s development.

Now a team of researchers at The Open University (OU) is helping close this policy gap. The team is working closely with African partners on a series of projects enabling governments and private sector and development organisations to better understand the opportunities and challenges presented by the rising powers, and devise strategies which benefit Africa.

Initiated by Professor Raphael Kaplinsky and currently led by Professor Giles Mohan, the team broke new ground in 2008 when it launched the first rigorous academic research into the rising powers’ impact in Africa.

This research was carried out in collaboration with the African Economic Research Consortium, the leading Africa-based research network for economic analysis and policy support to African governments and regional bodies. 

It resulted in the pioneering African Drivers programme which analysed the rising powers’ impact in 22 individual African countries.

The team has further collaborated with UN Office of the Special Adviser to Africa, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union, NEPAD and the African Development Bank, to increase the scope and reach of their work.

Their reports have, according to the UN Industrial Development Organisation, provided a ‘template for industrial policy in both the public and private sector’, and a ‘practical and constructive road map to push forward the industrialisation agenda’.

The research has also identified new opportunities for small-scale producers in African countries to cater for the Chinese demand for African commodities. In South Africa, it has inspired and guided a number of major development programmes to raise standards and increase competitiveness in key industries such as textiles, clothing and automotive components.

The research has been used by the Judge President of South Africa’s Appeal Court to increase his understanding of the global economy and inform his judgments in a number of competition law cases.

It has also been used to shape the strategies of firms in Britain with links to Africa. The director of one Northants-based firm said that being involved in working with the research team “has helped me think more strategically about how I do business in East Africa”, and has enabled his main client in East Africa to persuade its client, an international mining firm, to source far more of its supplies locally.

“The research has overturned a prevailing assumption that Africa has no say in shaping its own destiny,” said Professor Kaplinsky.

“The Open University team has moved the analytical and policy debate on from a crude ‘impact of China on Africa’ perspective, to explore the role of African agents.”

“This research provides evidence that Africa’s private sector is playing a proactive role in in deepening links with China.”

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Let’s not be impatient, there is hope for South Africa’s future

Let’s not be impatient, there is hope for South Africa’s future

South Africa is not the most comfortable country to live in. Unemployment levels dwarf those in the troubled economies of Europe. The unemployed survive because families redistribute income internally, through occasional and generally informal employment, and often by living off the proceeds of crime.

The very poor have risen in number despite 20 years of democratic rule. The rich elite flourish, often because of inherited privilege (the white population), because of their early access to higher education (the black elite) or as a consequence of an alarming rise in corruption (the kleptocratic, or thieving, elite). Violence is endemic, not just in the crime statistics, but often within families, in assaults on women and in everyday social contact.

Black empowerment policies have struck a chord with a formerly disadvantaged population. But often they were implemented too rapidly, leading to services becoming less efficient. Empowerment has also too often masked the pillaging of resources by the new elite in the name of redressing past inequities.

This is not the South Africa that we dreamed of at the transition to democracy in 1994. It is not the South Africa that Nelson Mandela envisioned when he strode out of prison in 1990. So, what went wrong?

The first thing to point out is that it did not go “all wrong”. In some respects, the new South Africa is not as bad as it seems. Despite poor delivery of policies, access to electricity, water and decent housing have improved for many. While the management of the economy has rightly been criticised for its failure to redress past inequities (merely adding a black elite to the formerly almost exclusively white privileged class), it did pursue macroeconomic policies which provided for stability.

However South Africa, blessed with gold, diamonds and many other minerals, singularly failed to take advantage of the recent commodity boom. Its growth has lagged behind that of many of its neighbouring African economies. Most damagingly, the rate and direction of current economic growth will do little to absorb the large number of unemployed.

South Africa does have a thriving civil society. Its population knows its rights, and is not scared to demand that they be satisfied. There is opposition to corruption, and signs that the kleptocratic elements in the ANC may lead it to pay a costly electoral price in next years elections.

It is often said that the real miracle of Mandela was that he made us believe that history does not count, as if we could wipe away the damage of decades of apartheid. But history does count.

The brutality of apartheid ingrained violence in the lives of much of South Africa’s population. The iniquitous system of migrant labour forced fathers to leave their families in the rural areas for 48 weeks a year to work on the mines which enriched the elite. This led to a breakdown in social skills and commonly accepted norms among the young, and sewed the seeds of omnipresent violence.

The outlawing of civilised political processes undermined the growth of a democratic culture which allows differences to flourish and to be tolerated.

And, finally, the failure of the apartheid system to invest in education and training meant that many of those who moved into highly skilled jobs after transition lacked the experience and skills required to perform their new roles efficiently.

Many of these historical legacies were evident in other African nations which had been decolonised after the 1960s. It took two generations before a highly competent, educated and hardworking generation emerged to challenge the corruption and incompetence of their forebears.

Today, South Africa faces these same challenges. But if countries elsewhere on the continent are managing to overcome the legacy of colonialism, then there is hope for the future.

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China in Africa

Is China ripping off Africa, as some people claim? Giles Mohan, Professor of International Development at The Open University has researched the subject and gives an informed answer. 

His most recent work concerns role of China in African development. In 2007 I received an ESRC grant entitled The politics of Chinese engagement with African 'development': Case studies of Angola and Ghana. This was followed up in 2010 by a new ESRC grant on Chinese migrants as agents of development and another as part of a network under the ESRC's Rising Powers Programme.

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Blog post: From “Jua Kali” to Toiling in the Mud by Richmond Atta-Ankomah

In this blog report, Richmond Atta-Ankomah reports on the daily struggle of traders in a busy market place in Kenya

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Blog post: BODA-BODA’ in Uganda by David Botchie

In this blog, David Botchie writes on boda-boda the perils of road traffic in Uganda

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Blog post: Energy and Inclusive Innovation by Rebecca Hanlin

In this blog Rebecca Hanlin reports on inclusive innovation in the field of energy in Kenya

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Blog post: Mobile Discos in Nairobi by Richmond Atta-Ankomah

In this blog, Richmond Atta-Ankomah writes about an innovation in transport in Nairobi

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Blog post: Notes from the AfricaLics Academy Innovation and Development in Africa Conference by Andrew Agyei-Holmes

In this blog, Andrew Agyei-Holmes reflects on procedings at the AfricaLics Academy Innovation and Development in Africa Conference, 19th - 30th November, 2012, Moi University, Kenya

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