Friday, October 17, 2008

Ghana and South Korea: The Past does not predict the Future?

Recently, one of my former graduate students received a prestigious award from the Korean government for his leadership in advancing nanotechnology research in Korea.

a few weeks ago I read that South Korea has been taken off the list as a "developing country" and moved up to the category of "developed country."

Recalling these events brings to mind the oft-repeated comparison between South Korea and Ghana: how at the time of Ghana's independence in 1957, both countries were at the same income level. In 2008, Ghana is appealing to South Korea for development aid.

When I was on sabbatical in Ghana people were still debating whether or not the government made the right decision in signing up for the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) program.

So how does one explain the differences in technological development of Ghana and South Korea, given that both countries were on the starting line together?

Or perhaps the more important question is: What lessons can Ghana learn from South Korea?

My impression is that Ghana, like many Sub-Saharan African countries, has no serious national science and technology policy.
This year I frequently heard pronouncements from national leaders that they want Ghana to be a middle-income country by 2015. There was a lot of emphasis on
infrastructural development and attracting investors and banks. A crucial missing link was a genuine substantive investment in human capacity development in science and technology. This area made a huge difference in the development trajectories of Ghana and South Korea (see, for example, Jones, "Engineering Capacity Building in Developing Countries").


Kwaku A. Danso (aka Danso JFK) said...

Dear Kwadwo,
Your story touches my heart and mind and hence let me say this openly.
Sometimes it is so sad to think back at the days you and I were at Abetifi Boys Boarding School in the 1950s in Ghana and then from Secondary (you at Achimota and I at Prempeh) and finally meeting at University of California at Berkeley.
After puzzling over our nation’s downfall for decades I came to the conclusion (after working in Engineering and Management in the electronics industry for over 3 decades) that the solution lies in LEADERSHIP. I thus went back and completed my PhD not in Engineering but in Business & Technology -Leadership. Our Ghanaian fama-Nyame (give-it-to-God) culture shuns confrontational challenge to people in authority and hence problems. I have written tons of articles and will continue to write - my first book was on Leadership and the Role of Government.
Kwadwo, there is a vacuum in Ghana. That vacuum is LOVE for NATION and CONCERN for others and society. Greed and selfishness make leaders appoint their friends, party members and cronies only and no search for competence and demonstrated skills. An estimated 47% of all University graduates from our Universities are overseas and 75% of all jobs are in government with no measurable performance as even Ghana lacks real budget design skills while spending increases. In the last 40 years while Singapore and Korea and India and now China rose in production, our leadership closed down factories while imports increased and leaders grabbed political and economic powers.
The West watched and cheered these African leaders Prof. Ayittey calls buffoons, while saddling our nations with massive mega-loans for infrastructure projects that never were fully disclosed nor ever got completed over decades, for roads and highways to housing and hospitals. If factories are closed and projects funding are diverted, of course there was no need of skilled manpower trained overseas.
Kwadwo, our leaders after Nkrumah simply don't care for us! Period! It is what Harvard and MIT Profs. Acemoglu and Robinson call "extractive" – just interested in acquiring Political power to gain Economic power.
The sad aspect are the EU and Americans supporting the charade with financial support instead of knowledge-based critical support and real standards of civilization set at the UN to help challenge African nations do the right thing. Why should nations whose leaders allow 10,000 schools without toilets and children dying in pit latrines be allowed membership of the UN! Think about it! Ghana’s defective constitution calls for the President alone to appoint over 4,000 Ministers, and heads of all agencies, utility companies, towns, districts and Regions, in addition to his Cabinet. Anybody with Management experience will advice against this but the West finds it the best way to control our nation and exploit us for our resources.
The shame of brain drain and underdevelopment goes both ways. Politics and Leadership cannot be isolated from Technology; or shall we say Technology cannot stand without Leadership.
Kwadwo, Congratulations! I am so proud of you over the decades. You still have not shaved your beard and you look more like Moses, but well, I remember the story of Sampson! Keep it up! with the kids taking over now.
Kwaku A. Danso, Livermore, California

gamelmag said...

I agree with Mr Danso. It all boils down to leadership! We need to set goals and work towards them. Science and technology are key tools needed to achieve our goals.

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