DRIVING FORCES

TECHNOLOGY

African economies during pre-colonial times were able to avoid any large-scale environmental degradation, partly because the population was small and partly because the demands on the economy were small (UNEP 2002a). More importantly, the technology was appropriate and adequate, as the people learnt over centuries to adapt systems of extraction of natural resources to be commensurate with the dictates of the environment. In contrast, modern economic practices have introduced increased demands on human and natural resources and the available technology has proved inadequate. Africa needs to improve and diversify the range of technological options available if the demands of change are to be met (UN Millennium Project 2005a, UN Millennium Project 2005b). New technologies often come with new costs, including high demands for fuel and increased pollution, and new risks, such as uncertainty about the environmental and human health impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops and chemicals. Chapter 1: The Human Dimension considers the developments in the pharmaceutical sector, and the potential economic opportunities investment in genetic resource R&D can bring for Africa, particularly in rural communities. Section 3: Emerging Challenges considers the challenges and opportunities associated with GM crops (Chapter 9) and chemicals (Chapter 11).

Africa needs to
improve and
diversify the
range
of technological
options available
if the demands
of change are
to be met.

UN Millennium Project
2005a, UN Millennium
Project 2005b

In the 20th century, Africa’s role in the development of science and technology remained small. Historical factors contributed to this. Colonization inhibited the development of indigenous technology and destabilized some of the existing processes of technical growth. Indigenous manufacturing capability was deliberately undermined to facilitate European exports for which captive markets were created. Further, Africa has not only been a user of technologies developed in the west, but has also served as a dumping ground for obsolete technologies abandoned in the west. Africa remains on the technological fringes, and in the absence of large-scale investment in this area this is not likely to change. Africa in general has a high dependence on imported technology. As the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) noted, addressing this is critical if development targets are to be met. Stimulating R&D in this sector requires not only an improved economic environment but also better infrastructure and efficient communications systems. Africa needs to increase investment in this area, and focus on the development of appropriate technologies (ECA 2005). The growth of ICT has been an important driver of economic growth and the diversification of opportunity in the economies of Southeast Asia. Chapter 1: The Human Dimension describes the current state of ICT and considers the opportunities this sector can bring for development. The Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) technology offers significant opportunities. The introduction of GSM in many African countries and the deregulation of the telecommunications sector have energized private companies to embark on aggressive telecommunications development programmes across the region. This trend is expected to become a major catalyst for development through improvements in information access. Modern ICT will assist the emergence of micro-power technologies to revolutionize energy sources. While many African countries continue to see modern information technology and industrialization as principal agents for economic development, some countries will recognize the importance of sequencing in harnessing technology and integrate these into the process of development including environmental management. With the introduction of cleaner fuels, swift transition to renewable resources and greater concern for the environment, the impact of industrialization and technological advancement on the environment is reduced to the barest minimum.