The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has stated that African countries could make tremendous economic progress by taking advantage of technological innovations.
He has, therefore, suggested a blend of technology and industrialisation to expand the boundaries of possibilities for African economies.
Speaking at the 16th African Economic Forum of the Columbia University in New York last Friday, Dr Bawumia said technology was the bulwark of industrialisation, hence the continent must invest in it to make economic progress.
“The debate is not about the goal of industrialisation but the path to that goal,” he said.
He spoke on the theme: “Technology verses Industrialisation: The Way Forward”.
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“And for us, leveraging technological innovations in shaping our industrial path will spell the future of our economic progress and the Africa we want,” he said.
The Vice-President, however contended that technology and industrialisation were not mutually exclusive tools for Africa's economic progress.
“It is and will remain a difficult balancing act for governments across the continent to pursue and adopt technologically relevant policies and initiatives side by side with promoting policies aimed at building an industrial base for their economies,” he said.
Africa’s problems, the Vice-President said, were unique and required exceptional measures to address and, therefore, could not be subjected to only conventional discourse.
“That African policy makers will even have a debate over technology verses industrialisation is troubling in itself, not because it is irrelevant but because the challenges we face, playing catch-up, much less overtaking other economies, require break-out strategies and unconventional pathways not addressed by the conventional discourse,” he said.
He said the world had witnessed that economic development orthodoxies had not always yielded the desired socio-economic outcomes.
“Governments fail and so do unmediated markets, especially on matters of the environment and natural resources governance.
A global recognition that the market, unmediated, is not always the most desirable means of equitable development, has led to the growing study and policy offerings in the area of inclusive development,” he said.
He said as the World Economic Forum noted in 2017, “over the past several years, a worldwide consensus had emerged on the need for a more socially inclusive approach to generating economic growth”.
Dr Bawumia said the concept of leap-frogging was needed for the sustainable development of Africa as a theory of development which would accelerate growth, with Ghana leading the charge.
"Ghana has sought to answer the leap-frogging question in three unique ways: first, by normalising the economy by leveraging technology, innovation and digitisation. Second, through an inclusive development strategy achieved through broad-based human development and investment in local, district-level infrastructure; and third, by industrialisation through value-addition and leveraging our natural resources," he said.
However, Dr Bawumia said governments must play a critical “role not only in planning the application of technology in addressing our development challenges but also in the facilitation and promotion of enterprise-level technological efforts”.
“We believe that some supportive role of government is necessary for the development of technological capabilities in our quest for industrial pathways.
It may be a matter of how to do it in order to unleash opportunities for innovation to accelerate the growth of industry,” he added.