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").

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