In one of the previous blog posts, we made mention of the BRICS countries. The “I” in the BRICS acronym stands for India. Today, India is almost wholly synonymous with ICT. India’s IT professionals are ubiquitous; you will find them in almost every country, and India’s IT industry accounts for one of its major exports to many countries. India’s ICT industry is a mirror of the technological advances of this country which is also one of the world’s nuclear powerhouses. So how did India get to this point and what can African countries learn from the Indian experience?
India’s successes can be attributed directly to one thing; a consistent and well-thought out technology policy that was articulated right from the days of Prime Minister Jawarhalal Nehru. Nehru was consumed with the goal of making India a nuclear power, and aggressively drove the development of a nuclear program while he was in power. This policy statement was given life in 1951 when under the guidance of several scientists of note, the Education Minister Maulana Kalam Azam inaugurated the Indian Institute of Technology as a centre to develop and pass on technical education to the Indian people, at a time when the country was still taking its first steps post-independence.
From the 1960s, the Indian government forged close economic ties with the Soviet Union, leading to rapid development of the country’s space and nuclear program. Advances in agriculture, power generation and industrialization were also witnessed during this period. The 1960s -1980s saw more emphasis placed on India’s nuclear program development. Between the 1980s and the present day, there has been a lot of development in the areas of Biotechnology (medical and agricultural) as well as a massive increase in the technologically-inclined services industry, with IT exports contributing to 40% of India’s GDP and 30% of income.
Today in almost every African country, many drugs consumed by the local populace are made in India, or are made for local companies by Indian manufacturers. In Nigeria for example, majority of intravenous fluids consumed by the country are made by Dana Pharmaceuticals, an Indian firm.
What can Africa learn from the Indian technological experience?
One thing that is very clear from India’s history is that technological development was driven from those at the very top echelons of power. In Africa, countries have been plagued by corrupt leadership from rulers who were only interested in power and economic gains rather than technological advancement and industrialization. Where attempts have been made to put technology at the forefront of national development, it has invariably been hijacked by political interest groups.
There is a great need for political will from African leaders to put the learning, teaching and development of science and technology at the forefront of national development. This can be done by radically scaling up funding for this purpose and providing incentives in the form of tax breaks and technology development funds to companies willing to transfer technology to the local populace.
India’s experience is that of a people who were given a drive to achieve by their Prime Minister and his team of scientists and technocrats. African countries can borrow a leaf from India.