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Can Tanzania leapfrog to the fourth industrial revolution?

Can Tanzania leapfrog to the fourth industrial revolution? The simple answer is yes, but only if we embrace the advancement of science and technology. As we are living in the industrialization era we can not afford to start from where others have left 50 years ago. We have to move at the same pace as our global counterparts. We did it with mobile phones, we can do it with our manufacturing industries.

If our mission is to attain a stable economic growth through industrialization then that can only be achieved through a stable productivity improvement. We can not improve our productivity if we still run and managed industries the same way they have been managed and run in the past fifty years. All the global large economies have been struggling to attain productivity with the existing manufacturing processes — Olivier Scalabre. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just need to adopt what is working.

In this age, we can not afford to underestimate the role of science and technology in industrialization. Quoting Mwalimu, countries of the South must pay the highest attention to the development of Science and Technology. This was said 20 years ago, when the idea of International Village of Science and Technology — IVST, was first communicated to Mwalimu by the late Prof. Leonard Shayo. Mwalimu saw the need of incorporating science and technology on our mission to attain socioeconomic development, the need of technology and skills transfer between the developed North and the developing South is something which was widely addressed by Mwalimu, something which is currently pitched in the Fourth industrial Revolution; which emphasizes on regional trades and local production, promoting factories flexibility (bringing factories closer to consumers), cutting down production time and logistical chaos, and creating more local employment opportunities. This is far way better compared to relocating factories offshore to reduce costs through cheap labors, something which is no longer working. For example, the costs of manufacturing in Brazil is the same as France currently — Olivier Scalabre.

To us, Fourth Industrial Revolution is basically linking our current existing manufacturing processes with emerging technological innovations. It is more of digital disruption into the manufacturing processes. Industry 4.0 is not just about factories anymore other sectors (parties) are also benefited from the change by embracing more technological innovations to increase efficiency and productivity. The new trending innovations allow us to quickly leapfrog. The technologies such as Additive Manufacturing (3D Printers) and the like, allows for quick, smart and precise production at lower costs and basic technical skills. For example, manufacturing of basic lab equipment, children teaching tools, toys etc can rapidly be done in Tanzania (Africa), without a great need of technology transfer and technical skills compared to building a massive production plant which operates on a steam engine and consume a lot of energy.

This easy to adopt technologies we don’t have to invent them. We can adopt from the North and use them in the South competitively. Some of these tech tools e.g Drones and 3D Printers are becoming cheaper and cheaper. Some of them have already been adopted and manufactured in Tanzania (Africa). All we need is strategic policy interventions to encourage growth and their sustainability.

We can not just be emphasizing on making factories larger we have to make them smarter and relevant to our economies, also it is not too early to start thinking about the future jobs and the robotic revolution.

So what can be done? Stop talking and start doing.

Strategic commitment to embrace technology in our industrialization process | already we have the Tanzania Development Vision 2025 (TDV -2025), Sustainable Industrial Development Policy for Tanzania 2020 (SIDP -2020) and the National Five Year Development Plan (2016–2021). The FYDP stipulates clearly the interventions that can be carried to improve science and technology in the country e.g investing on technology transfer, human development, supporting of Science Parks (Technology Parks), promoting innovation at the LGA level and strategic use of ICT. The challenge, there is no clear plan on how we are integrating emerging technologies on our effort to make Tanzania an 21st Century industrialized country. This can be the first thing to do, agencies such as Comission For Science and Technology Tanzania (COSTECH) and The ICT Commission can play a crucial role here by properly advising the government on what needs to be done.

Research Commercialization and Technology Transfer | It is not just enough to know, we have to use that knowledge, knowledge must be transformed into usable knowledge. We have many people in the South who knows a lot at the same level of knowledge as in the North. We have to develop the knowledge into tools that can help with the development of our regions — Mwalimu Nyerere. We need to transform our academic institutions and research organizations to support government efforts towards industrialization. Our academic institutions needs to move to third generation institutions embracing research, innovations and entrepreneurship. We need relevant applied researches to support growth of our industries creating new market opportunities and provide us with competitive advantage.

Building stable innovation ecosystems | both the government and the private sector needs to invest in supporting the growth of the innovation ecosystem. For example, the establishment of Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs) and Maker-spaces such as STICLab in Kitunda, will ease the process of developing ideas into products hence allowing rapid prototyping. Later on, the industries can adopt these products and start to manufacture them at a large scale. We need funding for startups, innovation spaces and incubators to groom ideas and business models and ease policies and processes that encourage the establishment of small-scale manufacturing industries.

Enhancing Regional Trades and Removing Trade Obstacles| More emphasis should be put on South-South collaboration As a country, we should assess regional market opportunities and produce products that are in demand in those markets. We should put emphasize on low costs smart industries that use technologies to promote productivity. The South buy things from the North and many of the things we buy from the North can be bought from Africa — Mwalimu Nyerere. As a country, we need to emphasize more on removing trade obstacles with other regional partners and capitalize on Africa intra-African trade. The trade is still very low, trade among African countries expanded from 10% in 2000 to about 16% in 2014 — Africa Economic Outlook report — AfDB. The industrialized Tanzania can capitalize on this.

God Bless Tanzania, God Bless Africa.

Appreciation
- The next manufacturing revolution is here | Olivier Scalabre
- South — South Collaboration | The Late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere
- Intra-African trade is key to sustainable development — Africa Economic Outlook | Africa Development Bank (AfDB)