African Engineers: No Sweat?

Not lengthy after the Know-how Consultancy Centre (TCC) of the Kwame Nkrumah College of Science and Know-how (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, had been based in January 1972, the Director was explaining the method of Acceptable Know-how to a visiting American professor and his spouse. Firstly, he stated, it was needed to review the applied sciences that had been already in use in grassroots enterprises after which to introduce a extra superior expertise that was achievable inside present constraints on uncooked materials provides, infrastructure, market measurement and preferences, and entrepreneurial abilities. Typically, this might be realised by adopting or adapting an historic extra labour-intensive expertise, utilized in Western international locations at a time when manufacturing models and their markets had been a lot smaller. ‘Oh no!’ the professor’s spouse expostulated, ‘I do not assume these folks needs to be subjected to a Victorian period of sweated labour.’ On the time, it appeared unimaginable to suggest a sweat-free path to a contemporary technological society, however because the years rolled by the nice matron’s dream has come to appear increasingly achievable.

It was definitely going to be very troublesome to introduce a Victorian period of sweated labour in Ghana. It was clear, even in 1972, that Ghana would by no means advance as quickly as Malaysia, shaped from different British colonies granted independence in the identical 12 months of 1957. Little question economists have recognized many elements that contributed to the disparity within the fee of financial advance, however one distinction is clearly obvious: the price of labour. Multinational firms established manufacturing models in South East Asian international locations to reap the benefits of the low labour prices and Malaysia was one of many first international locations to be enriched by this phenomenon. Ghana was at all times unlikely to learn on this manner. International firms working in Ghana within the Nineteen Seventies complained that low labour productiveness rendered their operations unviable, and several other of them closed down. Research carried out by the TCC at the moment indicated that labour productiveness was roughly 3 times decrease in Ghana than in India. It appears that evidently the professor’s spouse needn’t have nervous; Ghanaians had an inborn resistance to sweated labour.

Few folks within the Nineteen Seventies might have predicted the digital revolution that has swept throughout the globe within the three subsequent a long time. Anybody visiting Ghana in the present day, who knew the nation within the Nineteen Seventies, is instantly struck by the apparently common plague of earache. Everyone seems to be clutching a cellular phone. Outdoors within the streets of the cities and villages, little or no else has modified, however inside each workplace a private pc has changed the typewriters of previous. One marvels not a lot on the expertise per se however at the truth that it appears to be universally out there in a low earnings nation. How it’s afforded one can depart to the economists to clarify, however the truth that it’s reasonably priced can’t be doubted. Has the exploitation of the electron opened a window of alternative to an period of sweat-free wealth?

Computer systems and cellular telephones open up nice vistas of fast communication and entry to data which are important conditions to financial advance, however in manufacturing industries the technique of manufacturing should be equally superior. Within the Nineteen Seventies the superior industries of the Western international locations used expertise of very giant scale which the daddy of acceptable expertise, Dr E F Schumacher, rightly signalled in Small is Stunning, was inappropriate for many creating international locations, not solely due to its excessive value but in addition as a result of it was designed to serve a lot bigger markets. Nonetheless, as electronically managed manufacturing amenities have been launched, many of those have advanced as small models that may be mixed in giant numbers in large crops but in addition used singly or in small numbers in small and medium enterprises. The development is on-going and the price of NC machining centres and robotic manipulators continues to be unaffordable to most grassroots industrialists. On the identical time, progress is quick and additional falls in value are seemingly.

Laptop managed machines will likely be very talked-about in Suame Journal, Kumasi, and all of Ghana’s grassroots engineering enterprises. Machines that produce 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, want no wages, attend no funerals and steal no instruments or supplies appear to current a panacea for all their ills. One should hope that if this woman’s dream is realised, appropriate financial and social provision will likely be made to make sure sweat-free employment for all these technicians and artisans who’re made redundant.

Sci Hub