The Rise of Africa: Integration between ISI and ITT

Updated: Jun 11

The Rise of Africa:

Integration between Intrinsic Social Innovation and International Technology Transfer

Written before visiting Tunisia, North Africa

By Professor Richard Li-Hua

ELITE Innovation College Cambridge, UK

21st April, 2022

Many thanks for the invitation by Tunisia-Africa Business Council placed under the auspices of the President of the Tunisian Republic, Mr Kais Saied, and sustained by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Immigration and Tunisians Abroad and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, I feel very privileged to attend the International Conference of “FINANCING INVESTMENT & TRADE IN AFRICA, May 25th and 26th 2022. It is my great honour to deliver my keynote as: Rise of Africa: Integration between Intrinsic Social Innovation and International Technology Transfer on the Africa Day.

For a long time, Africa used to be regarded as the “Forgotten Continent”, which was to some extent marginalized. However, with the world gradually moves to post COVID-19 era, it will be Africa’s turn and opportunity. It is time for us to now call the world’s attention to the social and economic development of the African nations.

As we are aware that there is no equittable sharing of global technological advances and their application in raising the welfare of states and there was no forcing basis to bring together developed and developing countriess in developing collaboration, although international agencies, including United Nations, World Bank, OECD, BRICS, etc. have constantly made efforts to push in this direction. With unbalanced economic development, Africa must call upon itself to benefit from the intrinsic social innovation (ISI) and the new opportunities emerging from the pandemic including the International Technology Transfer (ITT).

It is important to understand, however, the rise of a national economy depends on both internal and external factors. No doubt, international technology transfer, through which advanced technology and equipment along with investment could be brought in, can serves as external dynamic factor, however, the internal factor - the intrinsic social innovation and soft capacity building even play an more important role in building a sustainable economy and society.

In the forthcoming keynote, I would like to discuss the inter-relationship between intrinsic social innovation (ISI) and international technology transfer (ITT), which, with complement to each other, become driving force of national progress and social and economic development, an inexhaustible power of the national prosperity. I would like to highlight the following points:

1. My Personal Connection with China and African Continent

40 years ago, in early 1983, I worked in Libya as a young interpreter and Associate Project Manager to Tripoli, Libya, sent by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). I felt quite excited and filed with dreams as this was my first time abroad after graduation from my university. This became my first career in construction for 15 years and enabled me to visit and work in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, and South Africa. My many visits to and work experience in the African Continent always let me feel that I have affiliated with Africa as that was my first foreign job since I was quite young at the time and always have the passion for the construction of Africa and for the better social and economic development of Africa.

Time flies, 40 years has passed, and the world has tremendous change. It has been 25 years since I came and lived in the UK. In 1997, I left China and I started as a PhD researcher, then moved into the academic career and became a professor and later on taking on senior academic leadership roles in the higher education institutions in the UK. However, as an academic based in a few UK universities, I have profound research on international technology transfer and innovation in China and Africa with significant publication of books and papers. One of my many papers published in 2007 together with Prof Tarek Khalil – Technology Management in China: A global perspective and challenging issues, is very highly commented and still has large readers who are interested in the filed of ITT. It is my privilege to have connection with China and Africa which seems naturally for me to make a comparative study of social and economic development between China and Africa. There are similarities, such as, the splendid history, the large population, and the large land area and so on. However, there is a big gap in terms of social and economic development between the two.

China is a country in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical time zones and borders 14 countries, the second most of any country in the world after Russia. Covering an area of approximately 9.6 million square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the world's third largest country. However, Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.3 billion people as of 2018, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population.

China today is the world's largest economy by GDP at purchasing power parity, second-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the world's second wealthiest country by total wealth. The country has the fastest growing major economy and is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter. Although Africa has abundant natural resources but remains the world's poorest and least-developed continent with high levels of illiteracy, lack of access to foreign capital, and frequent tribal and military conflict. Its total nominal GDP remains behind that of the United States, China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, India and France.

In one of my books titled Competitiveness of Chinse Firms: West meet East, I explained in more details