In one of Nigeria’s presidential debates, a presidential aspirant who happens to be a clergyman, while trying to sell his party manifesto to prospective electorates, once said he would “steal” technology from advance countries if he has to, in other to reduce our dependency on other countries and create jobs. The audience who were kind of surprised was heard murmuring while some even laughed at the aspirant.
I remember one of the anchors asked him if as a clergyman it was morally right to steal. Perhaps, if he had said he was going to spy or copy technology from advanced countries, it may not have sounded immoral to the audience and the anchors. As revealed by authors of “In the Shadow of the Dragon”, Winter Nie and William Dowell, when Deng Xiaoping lunched its open door policy in the late 70s China, entrepreneurs like Nan Cunhui, the CEO and Chairman of CHNT group, would buy simple switches, take them apart, and trace the outline of the pieces on paper in other to understand how they worked before going ahead to reproduce them. It was further revealed that many Chinese CEO openly admitted that their strategy in the beginning was to learn from the west, master the technology, and then develop their own products that took the technology further. Today, many Western companies are still afraid that China would try to steal their technology.
The question therefore is, is it morally wrong to steal good ideas from developed nations and replicate same in our society, even if that would create jobs for the army of unemployed youths in our society and reduce our dependency on other nations? If stealing in this case is following the Chinese pattern of industrial revolution, then stealing wouldn’t be a bad idea after all. Today, our nation is a dumping ground for many Chinese products. China herself has become the manufacturing hub of the world as many multinational companies continue to take advantage of her cheap labour.
Like China is, to the multinationals of the world, we also have the intellectuals and the population to be the china of Africa. Yes, the task is daunting but not insurmountable. If it means shutting the borders against those unsophisticated technologies from china and the rest of the world, the government must do it for the sake of our youths who are currently at home doing nothing after many years of graduating from university; and for the sake of the future of our country. Although, our economy is still in recession, however, there are opportunities embedded in every difficult situation. Therefore, now is the best time to start thinking “Nigeria”. Whatever we have capacity to produce in the country should not be allowed in or should be highly taxed to allow indigenous manufacturers compete.
But then, the dream to be the china of Africa would remain elusive if there is no energy to power our industries. It is said that energy is key to economic power, and economic power places a nation in the dominant position on the international stage. It is the responsibility of our leaders to do whatever it takes to provide us with at least 20hrs of electricity. While the government is striving to improve on this, the people too have a responsibility to protect critical public infrastructures like gas pipelines, electrical installations and others. The vandals of these public infrastructures live among us. Like I have advocated in my past articles, enormous resources must be invested in education and into subsidizing industrial development. Education is the foundation of science and technology, and must be given the desired attention, if we are to catch up with the rest of the world. Furthermore, as a way of accessing technology not available in the country, entry pass into the Nigeria’s internal market should be a privilege that should not be given away lightly and that should be traded for something of value; in this case, access to technology.
Finally, the Chinese, like most developed nations would never abandon indigenous companies or manufacturers with the capacity to get a job done for foreign ones, we as a people should always favour indigenous manufacturers before considering foreigners.
Shola Olayiwola is a freelance writer. He loves to write and defend the course of his country.