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Africa's Technology Futures: Three Scenarios

Author: Dirk Swart
Organisation: Boston University - The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future
Publish Date: July 2011
Country: Africa
Sector: Technology
Method: Scenarios
Theme: General
Type: Other publication
Language: English
Tags: Technology, Sub-Saharan Africa, Trends, Scenarios

Technology has critical impacts on regional and national futures everywhere. It can be particularly important in enabling developing countries and regions to increase efficiencies and develop rapidly. This paper examines two questions using a scenario planning approach: (1) can Sub-Saharan Africa be effective at creating, owning, developing, and harnessing homegrown technology, and (2) can Sub-Saharan Africa adapt non-African technologies into innovation cycles. A set of driving forces, effects, and change triggers that influence technology in Africa are identified and analyzed, looking at both the desired and the expected outcomes. Based on this analysis, three feasible futures are presented and discussed: “Use, don’t own,” “Pockets of innovation,” and “Leapfrogging.” The situation today is discussed as a baseline, and the risks of assuming that Africa will take the same trajectory to technological sophistication as the West are noted. The analysis suggests that for Africa to move toward more desirable trajectories, the welfare-generating capabilities of African markets will need to be enhanced, governments will need to be more effective and responsive, and more constructive external intervention will need to replace currently exploitative trends.
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