Newspaper Article - The East African

Africa Needs to Invest More in 'Life Sciences' to Benefit from Technology

    Author:
  • Steve Mbogo
| August 18, 2012

Summary

  • There is an opportunity for Africa to leap-frog development by virtue of being a technology latecomer.
  • The next wave of technology development will be green technology including bio-technology, nanotechnology and green chemistry. Africa is poised to benefit from this wave.
  • Latecomers like Africa do not have to reproduce what has been produced by others.
  • Africa is now dominated by relatively young people who are more conversant with new technologies.
  • Africa's future lies in the creation of regional markets. These markets will signal new opportunities for investors. This is where technology and finance come in.
  • The most fundamental reforms involve urgent expansion of engineering education and entrepreneurship.

How can Africa, a late comer to technology-led development,  benefit from existing knowledge?

There is an opportunity for Africa to leap-frog development by virtue of being a technology latecomer. But it still has to invest in conditions that are conducive to allow adoption and application of knowledge.

China, for instance, started using modern technology in its development in the 1980s and today, it is the second biggest economy in the world. China invested heavily in conditions that favoured adoption of that technology from other countries by ensuring for instance it had enough engineers.

What lessons can Africa learn from China?

At one time, most of the members of the Chinese Cabinet had an engineering background and this was done on purpose. Brazil is another example of development using borrowed technology. The next wave of technology development will be green technology including bio-technology, nanotechnology and green chemistry.

Africa is poised to benefit from this wave.

Africa has adopted bio-technology investment in food security indicating the countries' priority needs. Kenya for instance has invested in drought tolerant crops, Uganda in bananas that mature early, Nigeria in improved cowpeas and Sudan in weed control.

There are about 20 such initiatives across Africa but we need Africa to invest in life sciences to capture more benefits from this wave of technology development. Africa should not limit itself to the debate whether one favours bio-technology or not, what it should address are issues like shortage of engineers....

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