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Osemene Kanayo Patrick
Faculty of Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile - Ife
Keywords: Technology adaptation, distinctive competence, entrepreneurial skill, interface agencies,
Technology adaptation has been defined as copy technology adapted to suit local environment or a technology that is meant to suit the whims and caprices of local populace (Momah, 1999). That is to say, that technology adaptation becomes possible if there exist on ground an indigenous technology that can aptly fuse with the foreign technology that is intended to be copied. The existing indigenous technology would then form the bedrock for an easy assimilation of the foreign “adaptable” technology.
No wonder the presence of indigenous technology culture was cited as one of the critical success factors (CSFs) that determined the unprecedented growth in industrialization that is now being witnessed especially across the countries of the far East Asia (World Bank, 1993). For instance, sectoral analysis of the rate of technology adaptation revealed that many countries have leveraged technology adaptation to propel faster economic growth in areas such as manufacturing as witnessed in China and Malaysia (Bhatnagar, 2006), electronics technology in Taiwan (Mathews, 2005, Chandra, 2006), agro-industry in Chile (Morel-Astorgia 2001), agriculture and services in India (Bhatnagar et al, 1997), Fisheries in Uganda (Kiggundu, 2006), and Floriculture in Kenya (Meri and Shashi, 2006).
The above-mentioned countries embarked on an intensive and extensive technology adaptation programmes for three principal
reasons: namely, to break the vicious cycle of poverty and perhaps boost their export competitiveness (OECD, 1999); respond to competitive forces in domestic and international markets (not necessarily that they have access to government research and development (R&D) facilities and support programme); and make profit in order to ensure steady growth since technology adaptation is demand driven (Chandra and Kolavalli, 2006).
On the contrary, successive Nigerian governments had been be preoccupied pursuing the twin economic panacea called privatization and commercialization or monetization which were ostensibly prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank otherwise known as the Bretton Woods Institutes. Interestingly, these are happening against the background that Chandra (2006) had posited that the lack luster growth that manifest in many low-income countries especially those of the sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria inclusively), has demonstrated to many economics that macroeconomic stabilization, liberalization and privatization which are vigorously pursued by their various governments are indeed necessary but not sufficient to propel the much desired growth required for full blown industrialization and development.
In addition, advocates of industrialization via technology adaptation believed that a country need a solid science and technology (S&T) policy and at the same time show strong commitment to such policy if they desire to meet their technological goals (Emovon, 1999; Faborode, 2005). Other scholars went a step further to assert that such S&T policies should be consistent in order to last the test of time (Adeniyi and Ilori, 1996). Sanni, et al (2001) then averred that most Nigerians S&T policies are defective in either formulation or implementation because Nigeria has not been able to come up with an adequate industrial production that can effectively compete in the global market, S&T policy consistency or not.
This may be one of the numerous reasons why Nigeria which is literally regarded as the so called gaint of Africa with all her vast human and natural resources, has failed to record impressive results in adapting technology when compared with countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Malaysia which have been able to leverage technology adaptation for industrial growth (Momah, 1999).
Furthermore, Fakiyesi (2006:133) opined that for a developing country like Nigeria most of the required technology are available of the shelf, all that is required is the need to modify and adapt such adopted technology. Obviously, this assertion is bereft of how such technologies could be effectively and successfully adapted. Again, issues that boarder on adaptation of technology in Nigeria still remain largely unexplored till date.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that a gap exist which needs to be filled. However, any attempt at filing this gap, would definitely elicit the following pertinent questions. For example, what factors were responsible for the successful adaptation of foreign technology by countries such as Kenya and Uganda? What reasons can be attributed to the unimpressive rate of technology adaptation in Nigeria? Can the Critical Success Factor (CSFs) that were responsible for a successful adoption of technology by some least developed countries hitherto mentioned work in Nigeria? What strategies can be adopted to enhance technology adaptation in Nigeria? These are some of the posers that have attracted intense debate in recent times in academic discourse which this paper would attempt to answer.
Hence, he expected the per capital income of every country that has access to the same technology, to grow at the exogenously determined rate of growth in technological progress. Unfortunately, this has not been so because the technological gap that exist between nations with the same investment in physical and human capital remains a reality.
Lall, (2000), Kim and Nelson, (2000) argued that the rate of technological learning remains the major cause of disparity in adapting technology by nations. And the rate of technological learning appears to be directly related to the know-how of how to do things which is embedded in organizational structures, firms, networks and institutions (Fagerberg, 1994, Citing Nelson, 1981).
Technology Adaptation in Some Developing Countries
Technology Adaptation in Malaysia
In addition, Malaysia overtook Nigeria as the world’s leading exporter and producer of palm oil in 1966 and 1971 (Malaysia, 1975; Harcharan Singh Khara, 1976; Gopal, 2001 : 122). Malaysia (1986) argued that oil palm had become Malaysia’s leading agricultural
commodity and the third largest export earner. Also according to Rajah Rasiah (2006) “Malaysia now accounts for about half of the world’s production of palm oil; its plantations, processors and manufacturers are generally regarded as operating at the industry’s technological frontier”. Malaysia evolved from simple cultivation and crude oil processing to become the industry’s value – added chain.
However, the evolution of technological adaptation in Malaysia with respect to oil palm cultivation spanned six developmental phases. These are the period of trade on ornamental plants between (1870 – 1917), the era of plantation crops (1917-1960), the period of aggressive commercialization of plantation crops of boost export (1960-1979); the era of oil palm processing (1979-1986), the period of the establishment of oleochemical industry in order to capture external market (1986-1996) and 1996 till date represents the era of product diversification and clustering (Malaysia 1986; 1996).
Malaysia has also excelled in electronics through technology adaptation. Electronics dominate Malaysia export earnings, accounting for more than 80 percent of manufactured exports in 2000 (Malaysia, 2001, Rasiah, 2006).
The huge success recorded in palm oil production virtually pushed other primary products such as rubber, cocoa and rice into the backburner. Other problems include slow acquisition of skill, learning ability and poor pay packages for the peasants who are workers in the palm oil plantation.
Technology Adaptation in India
grapes with post harvest care technologies in adherence to global phytosanitary standard (Hard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Euro Gap Compliance were vigorously pursued.
The software industry is equally booming in India. Thanks to technology adaptation, intensive and extensive development of technical skills and tacit knowledge embedded in high-tech venture which the software industries represent, are what Indians have somehow mastered (Bhatnagar et al, 1997; Arora et al, 2001; D’costa et al, 2004, Basant et al, 2004). The technology of assessment, diagnosis of application and problems associated with design, code writing and testing of software packages has indeed grown from process – oriented IT exports to exports of finished products (NASSCOM, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005).
Recently, India has embarked on the development of plant breeding capabilities which is evident in scientific R&D, in order to adapt foreign technologies to suit local conditions. And India is the world largest fruit producer and the industry has a huge export potential (Chandra and Kolavali, 2006).
Despite the huge success recorded by India in economic growth, the benefits are uneven, as the poor are yet to feel the impact of such growth. Corruption is still high in most public places and unemployment remains very high.
Technology Adaptation in Chile
Wine making in Chile has improved through foreign adaptation of better fermentation and Grape production practices which have placed a high quality premium on Chilean wines in global market. Chile is the world’s tenth largest wine producer and the fifth largest wine exporter having increased its share of global export from less than 0.5% in 1988 to nearly 5% in 2002 (Chandra and Kolavalli 2006). However, one of the major draw backs in Chilean drive in technology adaptation is the weak link between salmon farmers to universities that perform agricultural R&D and train biologists, pharmacologists, marine geneticists and other human resources.
Technology Adaptation in Uganda and Kenya
The production knowledge in floriculture and horticulture (flower) in Kenya has improved with the improvement in the development of adapted technology in the management of greenhouses, post harvest care facilities and the provision of chemicals and other inputs (Meri and Shashi, 2006). This has resulted in the massive export of quality flowers to the world market. The value of floricultural exports grew by more than 300 percent between 1995 and 2003. Kenya is the largest producer of flower in Africa (Chandra and Kolavalli, 2006).
However, in adapting foreign technology Uganda and Kenya had to continuously grabble with the common problems of gathering information needed to identify opportunities (Leipzieger, 2006); how to overcome the barriers to technology learning itself, which is tacit in nature and difficult to imbibe, the availability of the required critical
mass of firm for technology mastery and technological deepening (Lall and Urata, 2003).
Strategies for Leveraging Technology Adaptation in Developing Countries
Another facilitating factor is the strong university industry linkages and high quality research (Yusuf, 2002, 2003). The presence of higher skill, dedicated labour force and an environment that nurtures the capabilities to learn and apply new technologies which was supported by the visible and facilitating hand of government made technology adaptation a success in Malaysia, India, Chile, Uganda and Kenya (Chandra and Kolavalh, 2006). At times, institutional frameworks were adjusted to encourage technology adaptation.
The common features in these adjustments are by:
Other Government Interventions
Public – Private- Partnership
multinational companies and some private firms helped to improve the quality of research and development (R&D) results. For instance, Indian government finances a variety of national and state-level research organizations to promote R&D. Also many German Universities and Polytechnics engage in collaborative R&D under contract with private firms. The funding sources for research institutes too are both public and private (Siebert and Stolope, 2002).
Another strategic move which the governments of India, Malaysia, and Taiwan made, was the development of industrial parks which eventually leveraged synergies between MNC’s, domestic firms and public research centre. Industry coalitions and organizations helped to communicate the industry’s needs to government while the commercialization of R&D results was vigorously pursued. In addition, the Japanese emphasis on continuous improvements of production process using just-in-time technology (JIT) and other quality improvement methods were of tremendous importance in upgrading and sustaining adapted technology in Japan.
Technology Adaptation in Nigeria
Some Specific Achievements in Indigenous and Adapted Technology in Nigeria
The critical success factors that aided the attainment of the above feat were linked to the preponderance of natural and agricultural products, good climatic conditions, fertile soil and the abundance of trainable manpower. These factors offer amble opportunities for a successful technology adaptation process in Nigeria.
Some Efforts in Adapting Foreign Technology at the University Industry Level in Nigeria
Plant for malted sorghums has also been produced in place of barley malt (Momah, 1999). Foreign technology that was employed abroad to preserve some perishable goods such as tomatoes, and pepper that incidentally are
abundant in Nigeria, has been domesticated through adapted technology (FMST, 2006). Brime was used to preserve a highly nourishing Nigerian soft cheese (Warankasi) for a period of six weeks which ordinarily would have been best preserved for a maximum time of twelve hours at ambient temperature (Ilori, 1983, Ogundiwine and Ilori, 1990).
Regrettably, these research findings are yet to be commercialized, rather they are left to gather dust in the shelves of most libraries in Nigerians tertiary institutions.
Threats to Technology Adaptation Efforts in Nigeria
Furthermore, virtually all the research institutes, universities and other higher institutes operate outside industrial structures and conduct research that are of less relevance to manufacturing firms (Ilori, 1983). This may perhaps explain why the industry – academic linkage remains very weak. Also, the domestic industries lack of interest in local research outputs may be why domestic industries are not keen to establish in house R&D or
patronize local academia for their research needs. Local industries on their part lack technological innovation culture (Oyebisi et al, 1996).
Generally, the technological skill intensity (0.07%) of employees, which measures the ability of firms to generate and / or adopt new product and process technologies is low (Oke, 2005). In addition, the ineffective networking among the Nigerian research organizations usually lead to the duplication of research efforts and waste of resources (Oduola et al, 2005).
Nevertheless, the funding of research institutes in Nigeria is very poor. Just between 1985 and 2000, research funds averaged only 0.08% of the Gross National Product (GNP), which is a far cry from the UNESCO recommended target of 1.0% (Oke, 2005; Oduola et al, 2005).
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
However, strong domestic research capabilities are facilitated by PPP in acquiring, absorbing and adapting new technologies. For instance, PPP helped India in the massive production of generic drugs that are not only
cheap but also cost effective (Economics Intelligence Unit, 2005). In addition, the private sectors have certain skills and abilities that the public sector lacked, including the ability to manufacture large numbers of products to very high standards. (Mahoney and Morel, 2006). Salmon and Wine production in Chile benefited immensely from PPP which helped to leverage technology adaptation for economic growth.
Nevertheless, the modalities of how to co-opt the professionals and make them work together with the artisans should be well spelt out. This, obviously, is beyond the scope of this paper but could as well form an agenda for future research.
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