Technology Transer in the Context of Promoting the African Economic Community

Technology Transer in the Context of Promoting the African Economic Community

Dist. Limited

ARCST/1/5e 21 September 1995



First Meeting of the African Regional Conference on
Science and Technology

Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) 6-10 November 1995




1. African developing countries are marginal producers of new technology. Their share of the world research and development effort is less than half of one percent and the research work being carried out does not produce much technological innovation. Indeed, the research and development effort in Africa has made little contribution to technological and economic development during the last three decades and it is not expected to make much contribution either in the years ahead. Much of the discourse on research has been and still is self- deceptive. In this context sound technology transfer and acquisition have to play an increased role in African development than it has up to now and it must receive greater attention from policy-makers than it has so far. In particular, human, institutional and legal capacity in technology transfer must be enhanced.

2. The new global system of technology transfer and the new international context that are emerging will have profound impacts on North-South flows of technology in the coming years:

~ Proprietary and strategic (military) technologies will be more protected but less
restricted than during the cold war period

~ Technology embodied in products will be more accessible as trade becomes

~ Non-proprietary technologies will be more abundant but probably less relevant
to developing countries as the technology gap gets wider

~ Technical assistance may stagnate at their present level or even decline further
as donor countries face budget constraints and increased demands from other
parts of the world

~ Severe economic and financial problems experienced by many African
countries will continue to curb commercial technology acquisition while
political instability and cultural blockages will also contribute to constrain
foreign technology inflow to a low level.

~ The slow application of telecommunication and information technologies in
Africa, which are the main supports of technology transfer in many fields, will
continue to contribute to the widening technology gap between technology
intensive countries and African countries.

3. Hence the importance of keeping all available scientific and technological development options unrestricted with unnecessary and cumbersome regulations inherited from past situations and development policies and a foregone international context.

4. History clearly shows that inward-looking, over restrictive technology transfer and acquisition policies, disconnected from the world economy and also from the basic needs of the population do not lead to true socioeconomic development. Technological progress is a global, intensely complementary and competitive phenomenon that evolves in a dense web of interactions of diverse inputs. Technological innovation has its own logic that blows away those that are not willing or not able to capture its benefits.

5. Deliberate or de facto isolationist technology policies cannot reverse the diminishing flow of technology into Africa in an increasingly interdependent, productive and competitive technology-driven world economy. These policies can lead to a dangerous de- linking from the scientific and technological locomotives that will continue to shape the international pattern of growth for a long time to come and also hamper cooperation with other developing countries that have appropriate know-how, technology and markets to share. Hence the crucial importance of managing the `technological window` with openness in order to capture the immense opportunities that the world has to offer and prevent the technology gap from growing larger and larger. It can be done with the right policies. Policies matter.

6. Investment climates must be made more competitive and the acquisition of technology should be regulated more by market mechanisms than by regulations. For large projects for which governments' support will be invariably sought, negotiation can be carried out on a case by case basis, taking into account all factors of analysis, including the impact on income distribution, employment generation, balance-of-payment and the environment.

7. tional dialogue on these policies should be organized in each country to look into the following and take appropriate measures:

(a) arrive at a social and political consensus as to the need for a revision or a substantial
adaptation of some elements of national technology transfer and acquisition

(b) formulate a clear policy statement on technology transfer and acquisition, to be
approved by the highest governmental authorities, specifying

~ the objectives pursued ~ the guiding principles ~ the role of various public institutions ~ the role of market mechanisms ~ the role of the private sector ~ the importance of foreign investments, joint ventures, licensing
~ priority sectors

(c) initiate measures to strengthen manpower training in various aspects of technology

(d) design competitive laws, including protection of property rights, trade, immigration
and foreign investments, and competitive regulations and guidelines to facilitate the
transfer and acquisition of environmentally sound, culturally compatible, socially
beneficial, economically profitable and sustainable technologies.

(e) reduce cultural and political constraints to technology transfer and development,
and promote values of change, openness, self reliance, initiative, entrepreneurship,
freedom and stability.

(f) pursue structural economic reforms so that African economies can:

~ be more attractive on the international scene ~ better absorb needed technologies ~ better exploit technological complementarities among themselves ~ participate more in the global economy ~ benefit more from the world technology pool ~ and prevent further marginalization.

(g) design policies to "contain" brain drain and benefit from African nationals working

(h) create a strong Governmental Unit to

~ design and manage a more discriminating technology transfer and acquisition
policy in the direction of the national objectives ~ carry out technology assessment and forecasting ~ support entrepreneurs in their foreign technology transactions and ~ advise the government on issues of technology transfer.

(i) evolve concerted and harmonized subregional technology transfer and acquisition
policies to make optimal use of resources and enhance a common stand when
competing for foreign acquisition of technology.

8. Technology transfer is a means to strengthen technological capacity and countries that are not successful in transferring technology are left behind in development. Hence the paramount importance of the subject.

9. Issues to be discussed include:

~ How the new international context ( new Gatt, decline of technical cooperation,
expansion of market economies, etc. ) will affect technology transfer in Africa

~ Can national dialogues be organized on technology transfer to discuss issues
mentioned above ?

~ Are the present science and technology policies adequately reflecting the
strategic role and improt of technology transfer in development ?

~ What are the most important constraints to technology transfer and what need
to be done to reduce or remove them?

~ What laws or regulations need to be changed or put into place at national level
to strengthen the contribution of technology transfer in development ?


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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.
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