Distinctiveness of Asian Driver and Western Garment Technologies in Uganda

Botchie, David (2015). Distinctiveness of Asian Driver and Western Garment Technologies in Uganda. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Over the past centuries, hard and soft technology transfer to developing countries had largely emanated from Western economies. It has been argued that these Western made hard and soft technologies are capital and skills intensive, rely on high-quality and pervasive infrastructure, and produce products for high-income consumers. Meanwhile, developing countries over the last two to three decades have witnessed a growing influx of hard and soft technologies from China and India (Asian Driver, AD, economies). The debate is that AD technologies are appropriate for the operating conditions in developing countries. This is because they are assumed to be labour intensive, tolerant to weak infrastructure, low cost, operate on small scale basis, accessible and less skills intensive. In order to validate (or otherwise) these assumptions, this research examines the distinctiveness and profitability of AD and Western hard and soft technologies using garment making machines in Uganda as a case study. I build this research on five key economic theories-the concept of hard and soft technology, technical choice, appropriate technology, technical change, the rise of the Asian drivers, technology transfer and diffusion.

The study shows five important findings (I) Uganda’s landlocked nature makes the cost of transferring technologies into the country more expensive than for the country’s maritime neighbours-Kenya and Tanzania; (II) relative to the Western machines, the distribution of the AD garment making machines is wider in Uganda. This spread is a function of access to finance, information and the location of the machine operator; (III) the assumption that the AD technologies are tolerant to weak infrastructure, low cost, was validated; but contrary to my expectation, the frequent breakdown of the AD garment making machines makes them relatively skills intensive; (IV) relative to the Western garment making machines, the level of profitability of the AD machines is higher in rural areas but lower in urban areas. Thus, the wider spread of the AD garment making machines does not necessarily reflect their level of profitability; (V) relative to other Western made machines, the use of manual AD garment making machines is appropriate for increasing output, creating jobs and small scale enterprises at a minimum cost. China and India are respectively becoming the main sources of hard and soft technologies.

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