News on Sunday

Dr Thulani Dlamini : “African countries cannot be followers of the rest of the world” 

Dr Thulani Dlamini, Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR) was recently in Mauritius for the ACP Private Sector Development Information, Knowledge Sharing and Networking Meeting for East and Southern Africa. In this interview Dr Thulani Dlamini explains that it is time for African countries to create a common synergy for further development. He elaborates on Africa’s industrial transformation as well the adoption of FinTech. 

The ACP Private Sector Development Information, Knowledge Sharing and Networking Meeting for East and Southern Africa has launched a series of regional meetings. How could this be beneficial to African countries? 
The real motive of the networking event is the exchange of information and the identification of collaboration opportunities. I learned a lot about what the European Union is trying to do with the ACP countries. Thus, it all creates an opportunity for us to have a bigger impact towards what we are trying to achieve in our respective countries.

Do you believe it is high time for the various African countries to create a common synergy in order to build a better Africa?
Of course. That is absolutely critical for the future development of Africa. I think that the ability of African countries to work together in a more integrated and distinctive manner is overdue and it really ought to be accelerated. For this to happen, the necessary policies need to be implemented. 

Youth unemployment is one of the biggest issues that we are facing on the African continent. We need to move away from exporting commodities to exporting high value goods."

Otherwise, what are your views about Africa’s industrial transformation? 
It has been very slow in general, although we have seen a growth in sub-Saharan Africa for instance. The growth has been better than the global average over the past decade or so, between 2% and 5%, but unfortunately it is not the kind of growth which has allowed the real upliftment of the quality of life of African people. And even not the kind of growth that has really created sustainable, high quality jobs, and this is the issue that we need to tackle especially in the youth segment, before the situation becomes unsustainable. Youth unemployment is one of the biggest issues that we are facing on the African continent. We need to move away from exporting commodities to exporting high value goods.

Are the African countries late in embracing industry 4.0?
I wouldn’t say so. I think everyone is still trying to wrap their heads around it. But the time to act and create niche positions for ourselves is now. We need to ensure that in this revolution, we are not just takers of what comes out of the developed North and West, but active participants in the shaping of our destiny, and developing solutions which speak to Africa’s specific requirements. 

To achieve sustainability, we need to develop capacity on the continent, in terms of infrastructure, human resources and indigenous technologies, where there is a need to be innovative."

What about blockchain and FinTech technologies? 
Those are some of the technologies which will define that manner in which business transactions occur and how citizens access services. These technologies will play an even bigger role in the digital era. The integrity of our financial services sector and even our ability to conduct business with the rest of the world will be dependent on these technologies.   

We keep on hearing about sustainability. What does sustainability in the context of Information and Communication Technology mean to you?
To achieve sustainability, we need to develop capacity on the continent, in terms of infrastructure, human resources and indigenous technologies, where there is a need to be innovative. We cannot be followers of the rest of the world, we cannot be takers of technology, and we need to develop local technologies. Of course, we should also make use of the intellectual property from the rest of the world, as a springboard for our growth and development.

How far are African countries sustainable? 
At this point in time, if you look at the technology balance of payment, for most African countries, we are net importers of technology. We import technology and we export raw materials, and this is not sustainable. We need to export finished high-value products and technologies.

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