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can Ghana develop without scientific innovation

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Message

r

in a word, no. For those who need to appreciate, read the following: http://www.scidev.net/dossiers/index.cfm?fuseaction=dossierreaditem&doss...

Comments

thinfox

Re:can Ghana develop without scientific innovation

i agree with you but in the context of ghana i doubt if it'll have the impact we expect. it's been said that 60% of students don't make it pass JSS, which means the average student doesn't spend enough time in school to see the relevance in science and technology. given that the average student doesn't make it past grade 9 and what is taught often has little relevance to their daily lives, it's not hard to see that science and technology alone won't make a difference in the lives of the average person.

r

are you sure

I must say I'm surprised that you are doubtful about the ability of science and technology to impact upon Ghanaian development. Hasn't it occurred to you that there is link between the appalling performance of Ghanaians in science and mathematics (by international measure) and the standard of economic development the country?
The daily life of good quality water and food supply, making a telephone call, access to electricity are directly attributed to science.

thinfox

re:i don't doubt

i think you misunderstood. i'm not doubting what we can get from science. what i doubt is whether the average person can see the knowledge/value in science to better their lives. the point i was trying to make is that the current education system makes it impossible for the average person to get enough exposure to build a solid foundation in science and technology. as i stated earlier, the average person doesn't make it pass JSS, and so to that JSS graduate/dropout what's all this rhetoric about science and technology?

r

so what is being studied?

Thanks for your clarification. I think too that there is a link with language of instruction. Did you note that in your post about english language teaching, the research document you quote referred to mathematics and science as abstract subjects? I thought this to be an interesting conclusion, because if you are asked to think about abstract innovation ( my favourite word, hehehe), in a non native language, your comprehension surely cannot be as strong as if you learnt these abstract mathematical and scientific concepts in your mother language.

Following a recent AU conference on science, I delegate (I think, not 100% sure) commented that right now, not a single technology used anywhere in Africa was conceived, developed and manufactured by Africans.

The solution? Ghanaians need to be taught maths and science in their native tongue during their early years of education. English shouldn't really be taught until proficiency is reached in local languages.

Ghana will remain poor as a direct consequence of students' failure to master maths and science.

thinfox

Re:so what is being studied?

i came across this article written in 2004, which iterates the same conclusion you've made above.
check it out here
Confronting National Mathematics Phobia in Ghana (Part 2)

i don't think anything came out of it but i guess we must shout louder to get the policy makers to pay attention to the issue.

r

ghanaian patents

I would really hope that sometime soon, a press release is published by a news agency to shame the government into doing something.

Another question about the paucity of scientific innovation in Ghana. As we approach 50 years' (alleged) independence, how many international patents have been registered in Ghana? I would be fascinated to know where I could obtain information about this.

r

Twi algebra

12-09-09: Are ghanaian languages to blame for poor scientific competence? The interviewee makes a strong statement that concepts such as algebra and trigonometry (essential for any scientific innovation to occur) cannot be expressed in local languages. Do others think that this true equally to ghana? The following article about the weakness of south african language makes a similar conclusion. The source is here.

A driver of change

By Richard Lapper

Published: September 6 2009 18:47 | Last updated: September 6 2009 18:47

There is a Rolls-Royce, a Maserati, an Aston Martin and a couple of Porsches, but it is the Bugatti Veyron that occupies pride of place in the collection of fast cars owned by Sizwe Nxasana, the chief executive of FirstRand, the South African financial services group.

But the vehicles are models that line a shelf in the Johannesburg office of the first black South African to head one of the country’s big four commercial banking groups. And the 52-year-old Mr Nxasana is a very different kind of businessman to the politically well-connected black entrepreneurs well known for their lifestyles and powerful motors.

While state-sponsored black empowerment and asset transfer policies have created an elite of “black tycoons”, Mr Nxasana came through the apartheid system as one of the country’s first black chartered accountants and has prospered in the largely white corporate world. His management record – at Telkom, the partly state-owned telecommunications concern, and since 2006, as head of FirstRand’s banking business – has won him plaudits.

Although his ascent owes little to affirmative action, he is a firm believer in black empowerment policies – under which some R500bn ($65bn, €46bn, £40bn) of corporate assets have been transferred to black owners since 1994. He believes the real significance of his appointment is “a demonstration that the country is making progress in the area of transformation. [It is important] that my appointment acts as a catalyst for other corporates to do the same or even for other black people to have confidence in themselves that it is possible you can be appointed to a position like this”.

Leader with ambitious vision and an impressive record

Mr Nxasana’s vision might seem ambitious but he can point to an impressive record at Telkom, the state-controlled telecoms company, where he worked hard to make the operation more efficient as it adjusted to the realities of part privatisation.

The restructuring was “conflictive ... [but] to be honest we just had a few strikes and demonstrations. We negotiated redundancies – it was all approached in a very humane fashion,” he says. “We outsourced a lot of functions and protected people in their jobs.”

But Mr Nxasana also believes that the shake-up was necessary to empower new black managers in a company that was mostly dominated by whites when he took over.

Telkom, in fact, had 24 separate layers of management and no fewer than 63,000 staff when he was appointed. By the time he left, more than 33,000 workers had been laid off and 16 levels of administration removed.

“When you have so many layers it is so difficult to empower because you have to go through so many levels. It had major implications as to the way people saw their status,” he explains. “It slows down the process and creates frustrations.”

Telkom has stumbled into more difficult times recently, but few analysts lay the blame at Mr Nxasana’s door.

“He is in a league of his own,” says one observer who worked with him on the company’s stock market listing in 2003. “He is measured and not remotely arrogant.”

Speaking over a hastily assembled working lunch of grilled fish, fruit and cheese, Mr Nxasana is courteous and charming, as comfortable talking about his own humble background as he is about his plans for FirstRand.

His story might seem to exemplify the importance of individual drive and the possibility of social mobility. But this is not a perspective that Mr Nxasana shares. Indeed, his plans for FirstRand are influenced by a commitment to social change. Although improvement in operating performance and returns is a priority, it is one that sits alongside a belief in the necessity of black empowerment. For Mr Nxasana, the two objectives are intertwined. “The goal of transformation is complementary to the goal of growing the business,” he says.

All the more so in the light of a decision announced in June to refocus the bank’s activities on Africa and the region’s growing trade and investment links with India and China. The bank’s domestic commercial clients are increasingly attracted to these growth markets and Mr Nxasana believes there is also considerable potential to exploit Africa’s own emerging markets, either alone or alongside strategic partners such as the China Construction Bank Group, with whom an alliance was formed in July.

At home in South Africa there are emerging markets, too. Mr Nxasana sees the rise of a black middle class as crucial for the group’s prospects. “Just anecdotally, if you look at WesBank [an asset-based financing business] in the early 2000s, only about 5-8 per cent of new business came from the black population in terms of financing motor vehicles,” he says. “Today, that number is close to 40 or 45 per cent. Therefore, there’s been a significant growth over the last couple of years of the contribution that comes from the black population into the economy. And the same applies to home loans or other parts of our business.”

Moreover, Mr Nxasana intends to build on FirstRand’s reputation for providing finance for black empowerment deals. “It is important that black people get an opportunity to create wealth for themselves,” he says.

Although none of this is new, Mr Nxasana has already indicated that the focus will be pursued more single-mindedly. In the past, heads of the group’s subsidiaries enjoyed considerable leeway in deciding their priorities, a looseness that allowed the bank to make loss-making investments in areas such as Japanese and German property.

Mr Nxasana now says that strategic priorities will be determined at the centre. “It is a much tighter definition and a lot more co-ordinated across the business units,” he says.

Part of this strategy includes bringing in more black and Asian managers so that the group will better reflect and understand the markets in which it is operating. Although this will take time, Mr Nxasana says that efforts – such as the provision of grants to black students studying chartered accountancy and other financial disciplines – has picked up speed and been given more focus since his arrival. And despite dipping profits, the amounts contributed to social responsibility programmes have increased.

More generally, Mr Nxasana is insistent about the need to increase the skills and knowledge of black students, whose under-performance in areas such as maths and science is a source of acute concern to the government. And he believes that vernacular languages such as Xhosa and Zulu, which millions of South Africans speak at home, and poor teaching are a big part of the problem. “[These] languages are not that good at handling the abstract concepts of trigonometry or algebra,” says Mr Nxasana.

Few business leaders are in a better position to make that judgment. In the 1960s and 1970s, when he was growing up in KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Nxasana says he was able to surmount these obstacles because his father was a science teacher. The answer today though could lie in the development of more dual-language teaching materials, an option that a charity – which Mr Nxasana chairs – is exploring. “We really [need to] sort out the schooling system so that we can, as a country, produce a lot more skills in engineering, in accountancy, in marketing, and in medicine and so on,” he says. “Language is the biggest impediment by far.”

These changes will not happen overnight but Mr Nxasana’s experience has taught him the virtue of patience. His time at Fort Hare University coincided with an upsurge of violent protests among black youth, and teaching was frequently interrupted. “There were running battles with the police and tear gas everywhere,” he says. “At the end of the first year we ended up in prison.”

In spite of recent unrest, South Africa is today much more stable politically, a context that can help advance the kind of economic and social changes that have accompanied Mr Nxasana’s own ascent.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.

r

Twi algebra

12-09-09: Are ghanaian languages to blame for poor scientific competence? The interviewee makes a strong statement that concepts such as algebra and trigonometry (essential for any scientific innovation to occur) cannot be expressed in local languages. Do others think that this true equally to ghana? The following article about the weakness of south african language makes a similar conclusion. The source is here.

A driver of change

By Richard Lapper

Published: September 6 2009 18:47 | Last updated: September 6 2009 18:47

There is a Rolls-Royce, a Maserati, an Aston Martin and a couple of Porsches, but it is the Bugatti Veyron that occupies pride of place in the collection of fast cars owned by Sizwe Nxasana, the chief executive of FirstRand, the South African financial services group.

But the vehicles are models that line a shelf in the Johannesburg office of the first black South African to head one of the country’s big four commercial banking groups. And the 52-year-old Mr Nxasana is a very different kind of businessman to the politically well-connected black entrepreneurs well known for their lifestyles and powerful motors.

While state-sponsored black empowerment and asset transfer policies have created an elite of “black tycoons”, Mr Nxasana came through the apartheid system as one of the country’s first black chartered accountants and has prospered in the largely white corporate world. His management record – at Telkom, the partly state-owned telecommunications concern, and since 2006, as head of FirstRand’s banking business – has won him plaudits.

Although his ascent owes little to affirmative action, he is a firm believer in black empowerment policies – under which some R500bn ($65bn, €46bn, £40bn) of corporate assets have been transferred to black owners since 1994. He believes the real significance of his appointment is “a demonstration that the country is making progress in the area of transformation. [It is important] that my appointment acts as a catalyst for other corporates to do the same or even for other black people to have confidence in themselves that it is possible you can be appointed to a position like this”.

Leader with ambitious vision and an impressive record

Mr Nxasana’s vision might seem ambitious but he can point to an impressive record at Telkom, the state-controlled telecoms company, where he worked hard to make the operation more efficient as it adjusted to the realities of part privatisation.

The restructuring was “conflictive ... [but] to be honest we just had a few strikes and demonstrations. We negotiated redundancies – it was all approached in a very humane fashion,” he says. “We outsourced a lot of functions and protected people in their jobs.”

But Mr Nxasana also believes that the shake-up was necessary to empower new black managers in a company that was mostly dominated by whites when he took over.

Telkom, in fact, had 24 separate layers of management and no fewer than 63,000 staff when he was appointed. By the time he left, more than 33,000 workers had been laid off and 16 levels of administration removed.

“When you have so many layers it is so difficult to empower because you have to go through so many levels. It had major implications as to the way people saw their status,” he explains. “It slows down the process and creates frustrations.”

Telkom has stumbled into more difficult times recently, but few analysts lay the blame at Mr Nxasana’s door.

“He is in a league of his own,” says one observer who worked with him on the company’s stock market listing in 2003. “He is measured and not remotely arrogant.”

Speaking over a hastily assembled working lunch of grilled fish, fruit and cheese, Mr Nxasana is courteous and charming, as comfortable talking about his own humble background as he is about his plans for FirstRand.

His story might seem to exemplify the importance of individual drive and the possibility of social mobility. But this is not a perspective that Mr Nxasana shares. Indeed, his plans for FirstRand are influenced by a commitment to social change. Although improvement in operating performance and returns is a priority, it is one that sits alongside a belief in the necessity of black empowerment. For Mr Nxasana, the two objectives are intertwined. “The goal of transformation is complementary to the goal of growing the business,” he says.

All the more so in the light of a decision announced in June to refocus the bank’s activities on Africa and the region’s growing trade and investment links with India and China. The bank’s domestic commercial clients are increasingly attracted to these growth markets and Mr Nxasana believes there is also considerable potential to exploit Africa’s own emerging markets, either alone or alongside strategic partners such as the China Construction Bank Group, with whom an alliance was formed in July.

At home in South Africa there are emerging markets, too. Mr Nxasana sees the rise of a black middle class as crucial for the group’s prospects. “Just anecdotally, if you look at WesBank [an asset-based financing business] in the early 2000s, only about 5-8 per cent of new business came from the black population in terms of financing motor vehicles,” he says. “Today, that number is close to 40 or 45 per cent. Therefore, there’s been a significant growth over the last couple of years of the contribution that comes from the black population into the economy. And the same applies to home loans or other parts of our business.”

Moreover, Mr Nxasana intends to build on FirstRand’s reputation for providing finance for black empowerment deals. “It is important that black people get an opportunity to create wealth for themselves,” he says.

Although none of this is new, Mr Nxasana has already indicated that the focus will be pursued more single-mindedly. In the past, heads of the group’s subsidiaries enjoyed considerable leeway in deciding their priorities, a looseness that allowed the bank to make loss-making investments in areas such as Japanese and German property.

Mr Nxasana now says that strategic priorities will be determined at the centre. “It is a much tighter definition and a lot more co-ordinated across the business units,” he says.

Part of this strategy includes bringing in more black and Asian managers so that the group will better reflect and understand the markets in which it is operating. Although this will take time, Mr Nxasana says that efforts – such as the provision of grants to black students studying chartered accountancy and other financial disciplines – has picked up speed and been given more focus since his arrival. And despite dipping profits, the amounts contributed to social responsibility programmes have increased.

More generally, Mr Nxasana is insistent about the need to increase the skills and knowledge of black students, whose under-performance in areas such as maths and science is a source of acute concern to the government. And he believes that vernacular languages such as Xhosa and Zulu, which millions of South Africans speak at home, and poor teaching are a big part of the problem. “[These] languages are not that good at handling the abstract concepts of trigonometry or algebra,” says Mr Nxasana.

Few business leaders are in a better position to make that judgment. In the 1960s and 1970s, when he was growing up in KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Nxasana says he was able to surmount these obstacles because his father was a science teacher. The answer today though could lie in the development of more dual-language teaching materials, an option that a charity – which Mr Nxasana chairs – is exploring. “We really [need to] sort out the schooling system so that we can, as a country, produce a lot more skills in engineering, in accountancy, in marketing, and in medicine and so on,” he says. “Language is the biggest impediment by far.”

These changes will not happen overnight but Mr Nxasana’s experience has taught him the virtue of patience. His time at Fort Hare University coincided with an upsurge of violent protests among black youth, and teaching was frequently interrupted. “There were running battles with the police and tear gas everywhere,” he says. “At the end of the first year we ended up in prison.”

In spite of recent unrest, South Africa is today much more stable politically, a context that can help advance the kind of economic and social changes that have accompanied Mr Nxasana’s own ascent.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.

OMANBA

Re: Twi Algebra

The argument of local/tribal parlance impacting on our scientific abilities can only hold only if we study, write and speak with that all in one go. Certainly not the case when we use universally acclaimed languages of say English and French in society frequently in schools, homes and state.
To make an argument about development in any sector look at a country's total profile. If the country is under developed the spate and level of its highly skilled sector will be limited either in numbers or opportunities but note... it isn't always about lack of know-how.
Where the Country is well developed there is more opportunity, more advantageous atmospheres and support for abilities to flourish. In our case, Ghana is always marking time and not marching forward enough and that has a lot to do with our attitudes and mindset and nothing to do with Algebra.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.

r

question misunderstood

13-09-09: This post is specifically about scientific innovation; as such distraction about total country profile is, with respect, irrelevant. The question proposed is in strict relation to the concept of abstract thought processing, which was explained so well in the link document within the preceding post. This post topic is about understanding, not "know-how" (which are of course not necessarily the same).

Anyway, the comments by Mr Nxasana were fascinating from the point of view of claiming language as an impediment to mathematical understanding. It suggests that it is not enough simply to aquire access to latest technology, but instead to understand the first principles underpinning that technology. Mr Nxasana seems to imply that teaching in a non-indigenous language (presumably english, but could equally be mandarin) would yield greater understanding of maths, yet most research has shown the opposite to be true. My cynical guess is that it's easier to teach in english because the government can simply beg (sorry, I mean receive a charitable donation) for some free books, rather than the longer term strategy of researching the best way to introduce teaching calculus in twi, algebra in ga and regression in ewe. It is probably true that the failure to comprehend and describe entirely these abstracts in local languages is in itself a direct impediment to development of attitude, culture and economic status.

OMANBA

its a simple answer to a simple question

With respect i think you lay too much emphasis on 'scientific innovation' and make it your code word and make it a stand alone issue all the time without wishing to look at the broader picture. But even so i think i answered your question in very simple lay man's terms which should have been easy to follow. When you ask a question about the absence of Algebra/Scientific Equations in our local parlance being an impediment and a probability in our lack of Mathematical understanding, then it is a simple straight forward question of wether we use the said languages in our science education or not. In our case the answer is no. We use universally acclaimed English and French for our science subjects and equations just like our colleagues from more scientifically innovative and advanced countries do.

That tells me there is a missing link. This is where i bring in country profile in terms of looking at the make-up of a country and how its conducts its affairs in relation to Science. Dont see how this is intended to draw attention away from your sacred topic. Would you call Ghana top notch in the way it administers its Science Colleges and Education complete with study aids and material? Is there a culture of supporting budding scientific brains in the educational sector or even at state level as you find in other countries where even organisations are ready to promote and offer networks, research opportunities and support into Science? Even at the point where an individual or a group get a brain wave, dont you see the indifference in the level of acceptance, understanding and support for their ideas?
Note how your Mr Nxahana held up his hand and accepted that good teaching was not in place down his end and he got lucky because his father was a science teacher. Now i doubt if those metaphysical formulae was annointed on him in local language for him to get where he his today.

I believe the big player here is money (the lack of it) and the social setting. Lack of top notch education, lack of opportunity and lack of support. When a country is load shedding on electricity, haven't even got an advanced telecommunication system and barely able to do simple social stuff like build roads without a grant or loan from elsewhere, you dont expect to hear great things. And Algebra in Twi, Ga or Ewe has got nothing to do with it am afraid.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.