Most of us share the view that science and technology play a crucial role in today’s society and has become one of the most essential tools for the development of any country. Science and technology play a crucial role in wealth creation and economic development and has become the primary engine of economic growth that provides the key to unlocking any country’s potential.
Advances in science and technology are shrinking physical distances and bringing people from different parts of the world to collaborate in a seamless manner wherever and whenever they are. They are crucial to enhancing access to knowledge, which has become an increasingly essential commodity in today’s world.
Humanity faces numerous challenges such as climate change, food security, poverty, and threats by various pandemics. We cannot address any of the global challenges without an investment in science and technology.
The 1979 Noble Laureate in physics, Abdus Salam observes, “in the final analysis it is basically mastery and utilisation of modern science and technology that distinguishes the South from the North.”
Back in the good old days when we were in school, we read about the Industrial Revolution and how it dramatically changed every aspect of human life and lifestyles. This is when machinery began to replace manual labor. Its impact spread throughout Europe and North America. We learnt about how the United Kingdom and France benefited tremendously from the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Science and technology played a crucial role in the realization of the objectives of the revolution.
We also learnt about how the United States emerged from an agrarian economy into an industrial superpower in the 20th century. We learnt about how Taiwan and Korea became industrialized countries through science and technology.
We learnt how the Green revolution led to significant increases in agricultural production between the 1940s and 1970s. This revolution led to sustained food surpluses and eliminated the threat of starvation, especially in Asia. It raised farmers’ incomes and contributed to the decline in poverty. It made it possible for people to have access to better nutrition and a more balanced diet. For those living in rural areas, it created greater employment opportunities. The agricultural revolution came about due to significant advances in science and technology.
Today, we are learning about how China and India are transforming their economies through science and technology, through biotechnology, nanotechnology, and developments in microelectronics.
The developed countries of North America, Europe, Scandinavia, and the Far East have made tremendous progress in advancing science and technology, compared to other parts of the world. They’ve put man on the moon, developed a space station, invented robots, hypersonic transportation, advanced artificial intelligence, new medical technology that is prolonging longivity, developed hydrogen powered vehicles, launched satellites, developed DNA fingerprinting, and lot more.
Unfortunately, the story in our part of the world is different. Fact is, we cannot advance as a nation or continent without the infusion of modern science and technology.
The question I ask is, how do we transform Ghana and the rest of Africa, socially and economically through science and technology. How can a country, blessed with education, with mineral wealth, with natural forest, with power and influence, use what we have been given to enrich a society that has been too long poor, too long hungry, too long ill?
And the answers we give must recognize the role that Science plays in finding solutions to the problems that plague Ghana and the rest of Africa.
Science has found the cause of the malaria that has plagued Africa for centuries, and there are the nets that can prevent this illness, and medicine that relieve its impact. How do we move this knowledge and these pills to those who need them?
Agricultural science has developed simple and low or no cost techniques for increasing the output of small farms. How do we get this knowledge and techniques to the millions of small-scale farmers who need them.
Through science and technology, we now know that millions of Africans sicken their households by burning kerosene for light and cooking. And there are alternatives that use the light of the sun for light and cooking. How do we move this knowledge and these tools to the those who need them. Science, then, has found solutions to many of the ills and evils that continue to haunt Africa. And the big question is, how can we bring these solutions to those millions of Africans who cannot read or write.
Fact is, we should learn from how and where the developed world started and the challenges they’ve encountered in reaching where they are today. But, we in the developing world should NOT wholly follow their research models that has led to where they are today. Instead, we should adapt and develop technologies appropriate to our local circumstances, and help build on what we have.
Some call this the “latecomer strategy.” This is the identification of strategic opportunities and technologies that are relevant to a country and urgent efforts made to secure access to them.
For example, Brazil has done it by using ethanol produced from sugarcane-a traditional crop in the country- as fuel to replace gasoline. By so doing,the government of Brazil was able to replace half of the gasoline used by automobiles in the country (over 200,000 barrels of ethanol per day) with a renewable energy source. In so doing, Brazil became a pioneer in an area that had been neglected by industrialized countries.
South Korea along with many of the Asian countries have steadily invested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and statistics (STEMS) and the result is clear. We need leadership to tap into local talents to help Ghana and Africa leapfrog the early transitional difficulties.
Nana Prof. Osei Darkwa, President
African Virtual Campus