n AFFRIKA Journal of Politics, Economics and Society - The outsourcing of thinking and imagination in African development : lessons from South Korea

Volume 3, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 1998-4936
  • E-ISSN: 2075-6534


This paper responds to the following questions: (1) given the same international economic structure and, relatively, the same levels of economic conditions, why did states like South Korea and other Asian tigers effectively transform their countries from poverty to sufficient wealth while states like Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and others sub-Saharan African countries remain mired in poverty? (2) What characteristics of politics are conducive to frameworks that enable effective citizen participation, which in partnership with government officials can produce transformative change in economic and political development in sub-Saharan Africa? And (3) what lessons does the South Korean experience have for African states? I define and contextualize the concept of outsourcing and argue that outsourcing can be negative if the component outsourced to a firm in another country creates temporary employment for the citizens of the receiving state but does not link the manufacturing or services by contract to the 'donor' national economy. Such outcome draws skilled workers away from the originating national economy to work in such external enclave economies. Furthermore, the outsourcing firm/country has exogenous impact on the target firm/country's taxation, employment and development policies - often without input from the target firm or state. Thus, negative outsourcing has far reaching consequences if what is outsourced include ideas and imagination that often result in dependency rather than independence. Based on the foregoing, I argue that serious thinking and innovative strategies for economic development in many industrialized countries, including South Korea, have come from uncompromising commitment by the policy elites on how best to deploy domestic resources to achieve desired national goals of economic advancement. In conclusion, emphasis on policy ownership and endogenous resources offer three lessons from South Korea for African states: a robust policy on science and technology education; government investment on infrastructure development and maintenance and the privileging of labour intensive industrialization over prevailing practices of importing everything. Overall, economic nationalism is at the centre of South Korea's successful industrialization and economic growth.

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