“Inclusive development in sub-Saharan Africa: The role of technological innovations from emerging economies

OU International Development Seminar Series

Inlcusive development in Sub-Saharan Africa: The role of technological innovations from emerging countries

Andrew Agyei-Holmes, Richmond Atta-Ankomah & David Botchie, 

Development Policy and Practice,

The Open University


Until recently, technology transfer to sub Saharan Africa (SSA) had largely emanated from advanced countries. However, the last two decades, particularly the noughties have witnessed a disruption of the pattern of technology transfer from other regions to SSA. For example, trade data shows that the import of capital goods from emerging economies particularly China into SSA has surpassed those from Advanced countries. This is a consequence of the ongoing global spread of innovative capabilities especially those between advanced economies and emerging economies in Asia such as China and India as well as the rise in economic power for China and to some extent India. A significant aspect of this development which requires more emphasis is that we now observe a situation where technologies are being developed in developing countries and transferred to other developing countries and that advanced economies are becoming less important as the main sources of technology transfer for developing countries. The significance of this can been seen in the argument in the literature that technologies are not like manna from heaven but are produced through endogenous processes (i.e. technical change is induced) and the recognition that technologies from advanced economies are inappropriate for the operating conditions in developing countries. It is argued that the technologies from advanced economies target high-income consumers, are highly capital and skill intensive and are for realising scale economies, with much reliance on sophisticated infrastructure. Meanwhile, income levels are generally low, inequality is high, labour particularly unskilled is more abundant, and infrastructure is much less developed in developing countries. These issues/developments raise multiple questions, of which the key ones are: Are technologies from China, India and other emerging economies any different given that they have been produced in a different context? How are they more amenable for inclusive growth and development in SSA economies particularly with respect to dealing with poverty that has remained stubbornly high in the SSA sub region?  With these broad questions in mind, this study sought to compare technologies from the emerging economies with those from advanced countries which are used in selected industries in three SSA countries and in some cases those that are produced locally in the SSA countries. Specifically, using data from the garment and textile industry in Uganda, the furniture industry in Kenya, and the agricultural sector in Tanzania, we examine the mode of transfer, penetration and the characteristics of the technologies (equipment and machines) from the emerging economies in relation to those from advanced countries (USA, EU and Japan). 

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