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“As a public good, up-to-date technology can benefit other countries thanks to a process of distribution”, explained Abdoulaye Seck, lecturer at the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, in a paper presented on Sunday during the second day of the 9th assembly of the African Economic Conference taking place until November 3 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In his paper entitled “Does the global spread of technology benefit the growth of countries in the Economic Community of West African States?” Seck explained that the process is based on two main channels: importing goods that incorporate new technologies, and attracting companies from relatively advanced countries in terms of innovation.
The author asked how African countries in general, and those in West Africa in particular, have been able to benefit from global technology, and what factors could explain their capacity for absorption.
According to him, the results show that African countries, including those in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have effectively benefited from the spread of world technology in terms of economic growth.
However, he stressed that these gains in growth are weaker than those in other developing countries.
In his opinion, the reasons are essentially linked to the composition of international trade, the low attractiveness of the continent, the weakness of human capital (low education levels), the poor quality of the institutional environment in terms of the system of protection for intellectual property rights, and for some countries the burdensome legal heritage of French civil law, compared with British common law.
“In order to increase the capacities of Africa to benefit from the international spread of technologies and improve the growth profile, it is necessary to envisage trade reforms that recognize the importance of choosing what we import (more capital and intermediate goods that promote foreign innovation) and who we trade with (more with countries at the forefront of world innovation),” explained Abdoulaye Seck.
He also stated that it is important to reform education, particularly in the teaching of sciences; to improve the institutional framework in terms of protecting property rights and greater attractiveness for foreign investors.
Finally, he added that foreign technology should be seen as an input (raw material) in the domestic activity of innovation.
Participants in the panel, titled “Technology for Africa’s transformation”, put great emphasis on a good understanding by African populations who benefit from these imported technologies. The difficulty of language was mentioned as a handicap to understanding the transfer of technologies.
This 9th assembly of the African Economic Conference runs until Monday, November 3 and brings together policy-makers, business leaders, economics and academics from around the world to discuss the theme “Knowledge and Innovation for Africa’s Transformation”.
Organized each year by the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), ECA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it offers a chance to study how to use knowledge and innovation for Africa’s economic transformation.