This Frugal Seminar Session we have invited Kasper Vrolijk as our guest speaker. Kasper Vrolijk worked as a consultant for various international organisations (WHO, ODI, UNIDO, UNCTAD) and has extensive experience in economic research and policy. He holds a PhD in economics from SOAS, University of London. The title of his presentation is 'On Technology: Second-order Constraints in Underdeveloped Economies, with special reference to Ethiopia.'
In raising competitiveness and productivity, developing countries are often assumed to take appropriate technologies “off the shelf” from developed countries at the “technological frontier”. The process of technology diffusion is far more complex and demanding. There is, however, limited empirical evidence on corresponding performance and policy strategies, particularly for Africa. This research assesses the constraints that firms in underdeveloped economies face when pursuing technological innovation and examines the role for industrial policy in addressing those constraints. It considers the case of Ethiopia, focusing on the garment, food processing and leather sector. The findings suggest that the current attempts by the Ethiopian government are insufficient to guarantee transformation of the economy. The Ethiopian government is inherently constrained by the learning process that is required to deal with technology dynamics. But the research also shows that the government can utilize existing resources and efforts differently to support firms better in their pursuit of technological innovation. The research is also relevant for other developing countries, highlighting the broader caveats, constraints, and opportunities to render progressively a process of learning, upgrading and, eventually, transformation.
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