Why do Africans seem unable or unwilling to industrialise today?

03 Feb, 2023 - 00:02 0 Views
Why do Africans seem unable or  unwilling to industrialise today?

eBusiness Weekly

In the last couple of paragraphs of Part Four of this article, I briefly touched on the critical weaknesses of the black Africans in the sphere of economic development.

These are [their] relative backwardness, lack of capital and technology, coupled with their lethargic attitudes and consequent behaviour.

In terms of the rate of progress and/or development in the motor manufacturing industry, compare Africa’s case with that of Tesla, the current champion of alternative energy applications which are centred around the use of solar energy and the nickel battery in motor cars. Having been founded in 2003, this company is younger than the Kantanka. However, it has now achieved tremendous success in terms of technological advancement (over 360 patents registered to date). Tesla’s sales volumes were 938 172 vehicles in 2021. In  the first quarter of 2022 its sales were worth US$18.76 billion. Moreover, the company’s products can be accessed by any buyer through a world-wide sales system, a considerable proportion of which is through its website.

At this point, let us consider this matter from another perspective — that of cooperation between the government and the private sector. In order to keep the matter in focus, let us compare the African scenario with other scenarios involving these two parties. On the one hand, the African governments’ attitude is largely tentative — almost detached — when it comes to such matters.

On the other, when the Japanese and later, the South Koreans; and later still, the Chinese, became fully industrialised, their governments partook fully in the process of industrialisation. That involvement comprised the creation of functional internal capital markets and financial systems and concurrently, state enterprises in the motor manufacturing industry. In Japan they had the zaibatsu and keiretsu whereas in South Korea they had the cheebol.

In China they followed a strategy based on the country’s past—that is China’s version of the Industrial Revolution. In this case the full involvement of the Chinese government in the phenomenon is well articulated in a paper titled: China’s Industrialisation: Overview — Implications for Africa’s Industrialisation, presented by By Li Xiaoyun at the Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference held in Addis Ababa from 18-20 November 2014.

In the same vein, the Japanese took this coordination strategy to an even higher level; that of Just In Time — JIT, a form of management style.

JIT is a strategy through which a wide spectrum of the economy becomes involved through a given industry; in this case the motor manufacturing industry. Here we have quite a few parties — most of them in the same industries — being involved.

As an example, one party makes the engine, the other, tyres; the other panels, and so forth. Each of these parties has their stations in the assembly plant from which they supply their particular parts as and when they are required in the assembling process.

This is a system that ensures that there is no overproduction of component parts that may end up being piled up without being used in the long term.

Such a strategy speaks to a well-coordinated economy as a whole. From there, the system moves to the regional level, then to the international level. Interestingly, in the developed and emerging economies, such a corroborative approach does not seem to stifle competition.

This is the case in spite of the likelihood of some rather dysfunctional competitive strategies taking place there all the time. For example, the latter behaviour is fairly common in the aircraft manufacturing industry where they purchase a competitor’s aircraft, then they proceed to strip it and then proceed to copy some components — all this being done in secrecy.

Contrast this situation with the one that is rife in the developing economies where dysfunctional competition is the rule rather than the exception. In that realm, they refer to it as PHD — that is the “pull him/her down” strategy.

Here consider the case of the Kantanka motor vehicle for which it has been alleged that the templates ended up being stolen in South Africa after the authorities in Ghana — the country of origin of the inventor — had jettisoned the plans and efforts of the inventor, Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka.

To date, this motor vehicle model has had its own fair share of attacks from both local and foreign foes. One of the major ones of such has been about originality with some quarters alleging that this vehicle is assembled from Chinese manufactured components, and so it is not a genuinely Ghanaian creation.

And to make matters worse, it has been suspected that foreign forces were involved in the subterfuge. The latter is a practice that inadvertently works against regional cooperation. The latter is a strategy that the Africans sorely need in the current period. In the same vein, consider that the Industrial Revolution involved the corroborative efforts of the nations of Britain, France and Germany as the main ones.

As a result, even though the motor car engine was developed from the principles derived from those of the steam engine that was invented by James Watts — a Briton — the diesel engine was later developed by Rudolf Diesel, a German engineer living several hundreds of kilometres from Britain—and across the sea for that matter.

The rather interesting result of such a development is the indirect contribution — in funding — by those three countries, to the implementation of such programmes as the development of the fossil fuel operated engine.

The same strategy, that could easily have been accidental at its beginning — seems to have been applied by the same Europeans, to the development of many scientific and industrial systems, of which the most prominent were, the aeroplane (the Wright brothers; Britain and USA) and subsequently, the rocket (Albert Einstein) and others; the X Ray (Mary Curie; France), the Haber-Botch Process (Fritz Haber and Karl Bosch; Germany), and so forth.

From this elucidation, we can easily appreciate the need for the Africans to work together in their bid to industrialize the continent’s economies.

Fortunately for us, such a cooperative strategy is already being applied in the initial stages by the said African leaders themselves. But it still needs to be carried through to its logical conclusion where the final result is an industrialised sub Saharan Africa. So ultimately, we have to ask ourselves the question: What advantages should Africans — Zimbabweans included — derive from being industrialised? And what does this imply to the world economy and peoples?

In analysing the answers to these questions, we arrive at an alarming realization. Firstly, there is the issue of [the] depletion of the said natural resources. What will become of the Africans when this happens, especially if they continue to acquiesce to the current conditions where the continent is being looted in broad daylight by the developed and emerging economies? And given the matter of global warming, how do the Africans think they can survive in the changed environment?


Clifford Shambare is an economist who has qualifications in agriculture. He is a practising farmer and a business consultant and contacted at [email protected]


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