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Science and technology at the Ghanaian universities

In Ghana, the universities appear to contribute as much to advances in science and technology as do the research institutions. In addition to their regular task of training scientists and engineers, the universities conduct R&D and disseminate the results throughout the Ghanaian economy. We therefore felt it correct to devote as much attention to the universities as we did to the R&D institutes.

Table 3.13 Ghana: Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) requests for funds and actual expenditures 1975/6-1990/1

Year Recurrent items (millions current Cedis) Development items (millions current Cedis) Ratios: expenditures as a percentage of requests
Requests by CRIG Approvals by Finance Ministry Released for expenditure Requests by CRIG Approvals by Finance Ministry Released for expenditure Recurrent Development
1975/1976 4.0 3.2 n.a. 0.7 0.5 n.a. 80 71
1976/1977 3.4 2.7 n.a. 1.0 0.8 n.a. 79 80
1977/1978 9.1 7.2 n.a. 1.3 1.1 n.a. 79 85
1978/1979 11.7 9.4 n.a. 1.9 1.5 n.a. 80 79
1979/1980 12.6 10.1 n.a. 0.7 0.6 n.a. 80 86
1980/1981 21.7 17.3 n.a. 1.4 1.1 n.a. 80 79
1981/1982 28.5 22.8 n.a. 3.5 2.8 n.a. 80 80
1982/1983 37.5 30.0 n.a. 1.8 1.4 n.a. 80 78
1983/1984 73.1 58.5 n.a. 0 0 n.a. 80 -
1984/1985 141 113 n.a. 25.3 20.2 n.a. 80 80
1985/1986 309 281 n.a. 106 96.0 n.a. 91 91
1986/1987 717 651 n.a. 434 395 n.a. 91 91
1987/1988 651 592 n.a. 135 123 n.a. 91 91
1988/1989 1,189 1,081 n.a. 579 526 n.a. 90 91
1989/1990 1,205 1,095 n.a. 99 90 n.a. 91 91
1990/1991 912 829 n.a. 54 49 n.a. 91 91

Source: Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana

There are three universities in Ghana; the University of Ghana (Legon), the University of Science and Technology (Kumasi), and the University of Cape Coast (Cape Coast). The first is located in a suburb of Accra, the capital; the second in an industrial city in the south central part of the country; and the third, as its name suggests, on the coast some four hours' drive west of Accra. Of these three, it is the University of Science and Technology that is host to the largest number of organizations involved in advancing science and technology. The major organizations located at UST are five in number: the Bureau of Integrated Rural Development; Energy Associates Limited; the Solar Energy Laboratory; the Technology Consultancy Centre; and the Animal Science Group. We shall focus on the Technology Consultancy Centre, which is most intimately engaged in disseminating the results of science and technology to Ghanian industry, and on the Animal Science Group, which receives the most foreign assistance.

The Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) was established in 1972. The purpose of the Centre was, in the words of the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Science and Technology, to '... extend the university's third role: that of service to the community.' It was designed to '... serve as an effective interface between the R&D activities taking place at the university and the Ghanian public' and this '... involved the use of available expertise from the faculties for undertaking Consultancy work; the transfer of technologies for industrial development through the establishment and coordination of campus-based production units; and the use of the Centre as a clearing house for technical information and services to and from the university' (quoted in Smillie, 1986). The history of the TCC has been vividly portrayed in the memoir of Ian Smillie.

The bulk of the Centre's expenditures have always been allocated to establishing pilot production units utilizing techniques which can be adopted by new firms operating on a small scale (see Table 3.14). To the extent that there are new and novel manufacturing techniques which can be adopted by firms operating at a small scale, the Centre builds equipment that incorporates these and demonstrates them to potential entrepreneurs. When the potential entrepreneurs indicate an interest in adopting the new techniques, the Centre assists them in importing and purchasing the equipment and in applying to banks for funding.

Much of the remainder of the resources available to the Centre are allocated to the Intermediate Technology Transfer Units (ITTUs). The first of the ITTUs was established in 1980 in Ghana's largest industrial area, near Kumasi, called the Suame Magazine, where there are approximately 30,000 workers engaged in small scale enterprises in the mechanical industries - such as metal machining, sheet metal fabrication, woodworking, and automobile repairs. In fulfilling its functions, the Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit created workshops in the industrial centre, in order to provide on-the-job training for craftsmen and managerial education for entrepreneurs.

This, the first of the International Technology Transfer Units, has been so successful that additional ones have been established in all of Ghana's ten regions; but only the initial one falls within the administrative control of the Technology Consultancy Centre. The data which we present in Table 3.14 therefore include only the unit in Suame Magazine. The construction of Table 3.14 is somewhat different from that of the previous tables; figures on development (capital) expenditures are available only for the years 1989 and 1990. It appears as if the foreign loans in those two years more than exceeded the amount of capital expenditures undertaken. If we can assume that most of the development items were financed from abroad, then Table 3.14, columns 7 and 8, which list foreign grants and loans from the year of the establishment of the Technology Consultancy Centre, provide a fair measure of the capital expenditure undertaken. That does not mean that the Ghanaian government is relieved of the bulk of the financing, for in those two years we see from the data on recurrent expenditures that this item consumed 63 million Cedis, whereas only 11 million Cedis were allocated to capital expenditures. As in all the research institutes, wages and salaries comprise the largest single component, and these are financed almost entirely by the Ghanaian government.

In examining the sources of external grants and loans we observe an interesting pattern. Initially, foreign exchange is provided in the form of grants given mainly by charitable agencies. Of the five grantors in 1972, three of them - the Rockefeller Brothers' fund, OXFAM and the World Council of Churches - provided approximately 70 per cent; the balance was contributed by Barclays Overseas Development Corporation and the Ghana Commercial Bank. Four years later, in 1976, OXFAM remained one of the contributors but rather more was given by the Canadian International Development Research Centre and United States Agency for International Development. For the next ten years the aid agencies of the developed countries provided almost all funds, but in 1987 a source shifted from the aid agencies to the World Bank, and the type of funds from grants to loans. Since then, 90 per cent of the Technology Consultancy Centre's foreign assistance has arisen within the World Bank, and has been in the form of loans. The Centre continues to draw upon foreign assistance, but is now committed to repaying the monies received. Moreover, the World Bank's loan in 1988 was not to the Technology Consultancy Centre for its own work, but was for assistance in implementing a project in the Intermediate Means of Transport, on behalf of the Ministry of Transport and Communication.

Table 3.14 Ghana: Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) requests for funds and actual expenditures 1972-1990

Year Recurrent items financed by the central government (millions current Cedis) Development items (millions current Cedis) Foreign assistance (thousands US dollars) Ratios: expenditures as a percentage of requests
Requests by TCC Approvals by Finance Ministry Release for expenditure Requests by TCC Approvals by Finance Ministry Release for expenditure Grants Loans Recurrent Development
1972 n.a. 0.005 0.005 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1973 n.a. 0.035 0.035 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1974 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1975 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1976 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1977 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1978 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1979 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1980 n.a. 0.18 0.18 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1981 n.a. 0.33 0.33 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1982 n.a. 0.22 0.22 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1983 0.80 0.65 0.65 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 81 n.a.
1984 n.a. 1.5 1.5 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 n.a. n.a.
1985 6.8 4.4 4.4 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 45 n.a.
1986 8.2 6.0 6.0 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 0 73 n.a.
1987 12.6 9.2 9.2 n.a. n.a. n.a. a 83 73 n.a.
1988 13.9 11.9 11.9 n.a. n.a. n.a. 12 83 84 n.a.
1989 22.7 18.0 18.0 27.1 7.0 7.0 10 83 79 26
1990 63.3 44.9 44.9 13.2 4.0. 4.0. n.a. n.a. 71 30

Source: Technology Consultancy Centre
Note: a: Various unspecified amounts whose donors are identified in the text

It will be asked how effective the Technology Consultancy Centre has been in inspiring Ghana's industrial growth. We should say at the outset that we are not able to provide any assured answer. Those who work for the Technology Consultancy Centre (see, e.g. the paper by Buatsi, 1991) provide a considerable list of accomplishments, ranging from the education of entrepreneurs and workers, through the establishment of small industrial firms, to the increases in output and employment that these firms have provided. Particular emphasis is placed upon the workshops established in industrial locations, as providing the training for those who subsequently become entrepreneurs and a model for them to imitate. The advocates of the Centre also emphasise the external economies secured, through the generation of employment in activities that supply the newly created industrial firms, and in the distribution of their products. The data on new firms established, on output produced and on employment generated are necessarily fragmentary, but the numbers appear to be quite high relative to the totals for all Ghanaian industry. Finally, one cannot be certain of the extent to which the efflorescence of small manufacturing firms in Ghana can be attributed to the Technology Consultancy Centre: other enabling institutions such as local banks, Chambers of Commerce, and the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology may all have contributed.

When it comes to the studies of industry in Ghana, particularly that comprised by firms operating on a small scale, there is a large amount of evidence (one recent study, by Steel and Webster (1990) lists in its bibliography 39 previous studies), yet contributions by the Technology Consultancy Centre, as well as those by other enabling bodies, are seldom mentioned. Steel and Webster's own study, which is an inquiry in detail into the response of small firms to the rigours of structural adjustment, does not mention the Technology Consultancy Centre at all.

Our own impression, based upon systematic interviews at the Centre and casual impressions of Ghanaian industrial firms, is that, to the contrary, the Centre has been very effective. It seems to have been one of the forces leading to the very rapid growth of small industrial firms in Kumasi and its surroundings. It also seems, through the network of Intermediate Technology Transfer Units, of which it was the originator, to have stimulated industrial growth elsewhere in Ghana. Our impression is supported, somewhat, by the evidence of substantial and continued grants of funds by various foreign donors to the Centre, at least over its first 15 years of operation. That the Centre has now had to turn to the World Bank for loans may signify that grants are being given to the establishment of other institutions, and that foreign donors consider the Centre to be well established.

Institutions that provide only education seldom give rise to such questions of effectiveness. The presumption in all countries is that education, particularly university education, be it technical or in arts subjects, should be provided on as large a scale as the country can afford. The sorts of questions that arise when education is concerned are not whether or not it is effective but rather whether, given the needs of the country and the demands of its young citizens and their parents for education, the government is providing sufficient opportunities. Unlike such institutions as the Technology Consultancy Centre, the needs facing the universities can be expressed numerically, in terms of numbers of applicants; as can the output, expressed in terms of numbers of graduates. Statistics on educational attainment at secondary and university level in Technical subjects, have been assembled by UNESCO and the World Bank and will be presented on a comparative basis in Chapter 7 (see also Lall et al., 1994; Tables 2.5, 2.6).

The published figures give an apparent picture of stability, if not progress. But when we come to the universities in practice, we find a much less happy situation. To the observer, the lack of resources for technical education in Ghana is quite apparent. The facilities on the campus buildings, laboratories, libraries etc. - are dilapidated and poorly equipped; enrolments are stagnant; and the fraction of those enrolled who complete their courses has fallen. Employment in the teaching faculties at the universities offers little inducement to apply for jobs, and many of those who are employed are in constant search of jobs elsewhere. Emigration of trained people, particularly in the early and middle years of their careers, is chronic, and there is no replenishment from abroad.

But this is a general condemnation; the experience of individual faculties is not identical. The University of Science and Technology as a whole receives fairly generous treatment from the Ghanaian government, but some departments, such as those of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, fare better, in large part because they have attracted foreign donations. Others, particularly the Faculty of Science (which excludes Engineering and Agricultural Science) are distressed. We shall now consider one of its most distressed departments, that of Mathematics, in relation to the rest of the university.

Over the years 1988-1991 the portions of the total funds for current expenditures received relative to the University's requests, were 0.63, 0.90, 0.83 and 0.74 respectively, averaging 0.78; in brief three Cedis were expended for each four Cedis requested. The fraction received by the Mathematics Department was considerably less, probably below 0.50. Of the 20 staff members permitted within the University's table of organization, the funds provided permitted employing only just over half: 11 in each academic year 1988 and 1989-90. Moreover, in these and the preceding eight years there was substantial turnover of staff, many of the senior members (those with PhDs) leaving (two to Nigeria) and being replaced by local graduates completing the MSc degree.

Moreover, the Mathematics Department has fared much less well in its applications for foreign assistance. From 1980/1 to 1985/6, none of its requests for foreign assistance was approved by the University; from 1985/6 to 1989/90 the approval of the University was secured for approximately 25 per cent of the amounts requested for current expenditures and 10 per cent for capital expenditures, but practically no grants were received from abroad. Current requests for foreign assistance (to the Dutch and Japanese governments) seem pitifully small - 50 new books and six journals per year, plus funds for exchange scholarships for three persons. Lacking the appeal of the applied sciences, Mathematics in Ghana is a neglected subject.

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