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   Conferences / The Twelfth General Conference:Islam and Mutations of the Epoch
 
Cooperation between the Muslim World and Advanced States in the Technological Fields

Cooperation between the Muslim World
and Advanced States in the Technological Fields
Dr. Abdul- Lateef Adeghite
Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs
Nigeria
I. INTRODUCTION
In the increasingly inter-dependent world of ours, co-operation between
States has become axiomatic. In the economic sphere in particular, the
inevitability of inter-state cooperation is most emphatic. For example, the
highly industrialized States need outlets for their products including their
technology. The developing States to which the Muslim States belong, need the
manufactured products as well as the technology of the developed world to
guarantee their people "a better life". Furthermore, these developing States
also desire to shed their "underdevelopment" and join the ranks of developed
Countries sooner rather than later. They would need to acquire the tools and
techniques that would accelerate their attainment of developed status.
Herein lies the principal basis of technological cooperation, and the
phenomenon now known as Technology Transfer. Furthermore, thanks to the
increasing interaction on the international plane especially under the United
Nations System, as well as through the various regional bodies around the
world, such as the European Community (EU), the Organization of African
Unity (OAU), multilateral cooperation is now the order of the day. This
upsurge in international cooperation extending to economic, political and
social fields, has influenced the conclusion of numerous international
agreements, notably those dealing with transfer of technology. Perhaps more
uniquely, the standards implicit in these international agreements now serve as
a guide to the developed and developing states as they enter into new
technological relationships or review old ones in specific situations.
Apart from concluding agreements with the Advanced States in
Technological fields, Muslim States also maintain useful contacts through
various exchange programs including undertaking specific missions to the
operational centers of the technologies selected. Similarly in-depth training
programs are organized for national personnel from Muslim States to the
developed countries, for proper initiation into new technologies as well as to
acquire appropriate technologies, or adopting old technologies to new
situations in the light of advances in relevant services.
In what follows, we shall relate the general practice as summarized above
to specific situations, using Nigeria as a case study. We would consider issues
that affect cooperation in the technological fields; where should emphasis lie in
the acquisition of technology? How do we evaluate Nigeria's performance in
technological transfer? We shall conclude the paper with a call for caution on
the part of the Muslim States in the acquisition and use of modern technology,
bearing in mind that Muslims should never operate in vacuo; rather, all
policies and actions must be pursued in the context of Islam.
II Technological Cooperation in Practice: The Nigerian Experience
Volumes have been written on the theory and practice of technology
transfer. Quite frankly, however, there are central principles alright, but they
are flexibly adhered to by the parties concerned in diverse circumstances. The
flexibility could be so pronounced when two cases are compared. Thus a
developed State exporting a particular technology could be accused of
employing a double standard, as where cooperation is withheld from a Muslim
State on the ground that it has not embraced democracy, whereas another
Muslim State that is patently undemocratic may be technologically patronized
to any extent it desires by the developed State.
Some donee States too may lack consistency. Thus a State may declare
strict commitment to an inward-oriented trade policy insisting on substituting
domestic for imported manufactures; she therefore imports appropriate
technology to suit the protected industries. The patronized developed Country
would be in for a shock, when the same discriminating donee State turns
round to patronize a third State, a rival of the earlier donor State, by
embracing its manufactures which she imports in large numbers to the
detriment of the former. The unceremonious switch of the donee State to an
out ward oriented trade policy obviously creates confusion and strains in the
relationship between her and the first donor State. Perhaps the best approach
for donor States is to opt for complementarily between inward and outward
trade policies, as Nigeria has done. In other words, Nigeria protects local
industries but also opens her doors to imported manufactures, thus allowing
competition between the latter and locally produced goods, subject to the use
of tariffs as and when necessary to stem dumping of goods in the Country, to
the detriment of local industries.
Another vehicle of business cooperation which Nigeria has used to much
advantage especially in the Oil Sector has been Joint Ventures. Indeed to
ensure optimal advantage for the Country, the relationships were modified
some three decades ago, between the multinationals with their bases in
advanced States and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),
the State Agency responsible for Petroleum Resources, such that the latter
assumed majority ownership of the Joint Venture with the Multi-nationals.
This model obtained too in respect of other manufacturing enterprises
especially in the 70's when the Country enacted indigenization laws aimed at
vesting in Nigerians the controlling shares in the Companies operating in
Nigeria. This development slowed down the industrialization of the Country,
which later informed a dramatic revision of the policy. Protectionism yielded
place to liberalization. Thus in 1995, the Nigerian Investment Promotion
Commission Decree (No. 16) was promulgated. Section 17 of the Decree
henceforth makes all enterprises, except a few listed ones, eligible for non-
Nigerian participation. The excepted enterprises are petroleum, production of
arms and ammunition, production of military and para-military wear and
accouterment including those of the Police and the Customs, Immigration and
Prisons Services, as well as the production of and dealing in narcotic drugs
and psychotropic substances. Although the Federal Government may add to
these excepted items by expanding what is known as the negative list, no
such addition has been made since the relaxation of the restriction on foreign
participation in Nigerian enterprises effected five years ago.
The relaxation noted here has paved the way to greater cooperation
between Nigeria and the advanced Countries of Europe and America,
resulting in increased economic activities thus laying the foundation for real
growth and development. For example, within one year of the new economic
measure, a number of Multinationals operating in Nigeria rearranged their
businesses and acquired controlling shares in their Nigerian outfits. They
proceeded to inject more funds into their respective businesses, expanding
their technological bases in the process.
What does this development portend? Are we approaching a situation
where Corporations from advanced States would insist on zero equity
participation by local investors before they would come into the developing
Countries to engage in foreign Direct Investment (FDI)? For example, how
would an American, European or Japanese Automobile Conglomerate
respond to a Nigerian invitation to set up a factory to produce a Nigerian
automobile? If the Malaysian experience with Mitsubishi is anything to go by,
the response would probably be for the foreign conglomerate not to take the
route initially adopted in Malaysia, where a Joint Venture Company, Proton,
the National Champion Car Company was used. Rather, the investors would
elect to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary which would undertake to produce
the National car as was eventually done successfully in Malaysia.
Some Nigerian nationalists would certainly resent this, and dub it
economic neo-imperialism. On the other hand, if this is the route that would
hasten us to acquire the status of a highly industrialized State, all well and
good. We must, however, insist on the transfer of all the technology involved
and use the same to build new ones ourselves. This is why it is imperative for
developing Countries to use to the maximum effect two approaches while
encouraging technological innovation, as Nigeria is currently doing: namely
direct and indirect methods of sourcing technology in industry to meet the
needs of the Country, and to maximize competitive advantage in the market.
The Direct method involves setting up Research and Development (R&D)
facilities for the purpose of building technological capacities for the country.
The same arrangements ensure that quality control systems are in place. The
Indirect method employs tax reliefs to encourage technology creation such as
tax holiday for 5 to 7 years to companies that have been granted pioneer
status.
With the cessation of the Cold War between the West and the dissolved
Soviet Union, cooperation between Advanced States and the Developing States
is much more relaxed. Nonetheless, certain conditions are now imposed, the
fulfillment of which facilitates economic cooperation. A reasonable stable
political system is insisted upon. Democratic condition is high on the list of
requirements, so is a low level of corruption. Hence, the new democratic
Civilian Government in Nigeria has decided to strengthen the law against
corruption and has made transparency a cornerstone of the Administration.
There is also a strong commitment to free enterprise.
Furthermore, since competent people would be needed to absorb
technology that would flow from advanced Countries, education is vital as well
as relevant specialized facilities for training the nationals of the receiving
Countries in new technologies. Muslim States like Nigeria are therefore
investing in University Education. Indeed, specialized Universities, for
example University of Technology and those of Agriculture have been
established to upgrade the technological skills of Nigerians. Developed
Countries also insist on well-developed legal infrastructure in the host
Countries. In Nigeria, for example, there are institutions and credible
procedures for protecting technology. Thus intellectual property is well
safeguarded through laws regulating Patents, Copyrights, Registered and
Unregistered Designs as well as Confidentiality. These rights can be easily
dealt with by assignment, licensing, and joint ownership. There can also be an
outright purchase of equipment or know how.
Should disputes arise in the business relationships between the foreign
companies coming from an advanced Country and their counterparts in a
Muslim State like Nigeria, well developed procedures backed by the
Constitution and the law are in place for peaceful resolution or settlement of
the disputes. The Courts of Law are independent and free from the
Government. There is also a vibrant Arbitration System for handling
international commercial arbitration as well as domestic arbitration. Awards
by the arbitral tribunals can be registered and enforced like Court judgments.
Cooperation is further enhanced by the provision of the Nigerian Constitution,
which prohibits expropriation of property. In other words property of a
foreigner or that of a Nigerian cannot be forfeited to the State without fair
compensation.
From the foregoing, it would be seen that the World is today well-
disposed to economic cooperation between the Advanced Countries and the
Developing World including the Muslim States. It is, however, important that
the latter do not become too complacent in these matters or too trusting. They
must be alert and ensure they do not come worse off in the cooperative
relationship. It is for this reason that Nigeria has adopted a two-prong
strategy. In the first place, she has established the Nigerian Investment
Promotion Commission whose functions are to encourage, promote, and
coordinate investment in the Nigerian economy. The Commission is also
charged with the responsibility of creating a conducive environment for
investment in Nigeria.
In the second place, to ensure that Nigerians are not short changed by
their foreign partners from the Advanced Countries, a Federal Agency, the
Nigerian Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) has been
established to oversee technology transfer in the Country. The Agency's main
functions are:
i. The encouragement of a more efficient process for the identification
and selection of foreign technology;
ii. The development of the negotiation skills of Nigerians with a view to
ensuring the acquisition of the best contractual terms and conditions by
Nigerian partners entering into any contract or agreement for the transfer of
foreign technology;
iii. The provision of a more efficient process for the adaptation of
imported technology;
iv. The registration of all existing and new contracts or agreements
entered into for the transfer of foreign technology to Nigerian partners; and
v. The monitoring on a continuous basis of the execution of any contract
or agreement registered under the Decree.
III. Mission To Advanced States
Nationals of the receiving Countries ought to be exposed to the inner
operations of industries that have been transplanted to these Countries from
the advanced States right at the operational bases of the affected industries.
This should be possible by organizing missions to the advanced States
concerned. An appropriate clause in the international agreement dealing with
a technology transfer should make appropriate provision for this. Indeed,
economic missions from developing States to developed States should be
undertaken at all levels, and routinely to enable the former to acquaint
themselves of the latest technological developments. In this way, they would be
well-placed to determine which technology they really need, and where best to
access it and at the appropriate time.
It is pertinent to add here that economic missions by developing States
should not be restricted to advanced States. Countries at a comparable level of
development should be visited too. Indeed, the spirit behind South-South
cooperation dictates this practice. Networking among Muslim States is yet to
be embraced. This is bound to save costs, as affected States would learn from
the experience of one another and thus avoid repeating the mistakes of others.
For example, technology lag would be quickly detected and obsolescent
technologies, which might have been represented as current to one Country,
would have shown their true form.
It is gratifying to note that National Chambers of Commerce do organize
Trade Missions firm time to time to Foreign Countries: advanced and
developing. Many of these States also take advantage of their membership of
Inter national Organizations and Institutions to interact in various ways such
as the World Bank; International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of
Islamic Conference (OIC) and its affiliate, the Islamic Development Bank
(IDB).
IV. Training of Personnel
The importance of training in the realm of technology cannot be over
emphasized. Those who develop and operate technological inventions must be
skilled and up to date. That is why relevant agreements for the transfer of
technology or the operation of any imported industry always make provision
for the training of the nationals of the receiving Countries. In Nigeria the
arrangement is mandatory.
As earlier noted, the Nigerian National Office for Technology Acquisition
and Promotion sees to the development of the contractual skills of Nigerians in
the technological field. The Country has gone further too to establish
Industrial Development Centres (IDCS) to serve as training and technology
development adaptation centers.
Although the modern international system is hankering on globalization
and liberalization, the obligation has not yet extended to opening the gates of
the technological laboratories of the developed Countries to the trainees or the
developing Countries. The markets of the latter must be free and the prices of
their raw materials are subjected to market forces. Why should the factories
and laboratories of the advanced Countries remain restricted areas? Surely,
what is good for the gander is good for the goose.
Here again, the Muslim States must look inwards and adopt policies of
intimate economic relationships among themselves. They must evolve common
training programs and arrange regular exchange visits for their nationals. In
this regard, schemes like the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) of IDB
should receive maximum support from member States. The 1DB too should
take the Program seriously, and ensure that it is fully implemented. The
objectives of the TCP are very relevant to the training of nationals of Muslim
States for maximizing technological cooperation among themselves and with
Advanced States, namely:
''i. To mobilize the technical capacity, expertise and training capabilities
of IDB member Countries for the purpose of fostering collaboration within the
Islamic Ummah.
ii. To promote opportunities for exchange of experience, information and
appropriate technologies suited to the development needs of member
Countries.
iii. To alleviate the managerial technical and institutional constraints
which retard project implementation and efficiency".
The vehicles for the attainment of the above objectives are: the
recruitment of experts; the provision of on-the-job training; study and
familiarization visits; and the organization of workshops and seminars.
V. Assessing the Benefits of Technology Transfer
Undoubtedly technological cooperation between the Muslim World and
Advanced States has been mutually beneficial. The Advanced States have sold
their products and acquired wealth in the process. The Muslim States on their
part have utilized the acquired technology to improve their economic and
social conditions through industrialization, building of infrastructure, and
acquisition of improved managerial skills in numerous fronts. However, these
resulting benefits have not spread evenly. In some cases, the benefits have not
been real; in yet others the cooperation experienced has been more of an
encounter, ending in disaster in certain cases. Once more, the Nigerian
experience may be instructive. Whereas in some industrial sectors, notably in
the area of Food and Beverage (Nestle PLC, for instance) as well as in the
financial sector, namely Banking, Insurance, and the Capital Market, the
Nigerian performance in Technology Transfer has been impressive. In quite a
number of other sectors, particularly those supervised essentially by the
Government, the story has been a sad one. The Ajaokuta Steel Project into
which has been pumped colossal funds is yet to materialize, more than two
decades since it was initiated. Both Electric Power and Telecommunications
Sectors which employ Consultants and Contractors from a number of
Advanced States continue to perform poorly, even though considerable sums
of money are allocated for their services annually.
In many cases questions have been raised about the good faith or other
wise of many companies from Advanced States who operate in the developing
Countries. The allegation is persistently made that officials of these foreign
companies collude with their local partners or public officials to defraud the
State either by supplying unsuitable machinery, obsolete technologies or for
not performing their contracts at all, even when they would have been duly
paid for the required services. The records are there, that scraps are supplied
for specified machinery or second-hand materials for new. Admittedly, the bad
eggs among the foreign investors who operate in Nigeria, or any Muslim State
for that matter, are few. However, the nefarious acts of these miscreants tend
to impact quite adversely on the infrastructures of the respective States, to the
dismay of the entire citizenry.
In consequence, the abuses (though limited) accompanying technological
cooperation, tend to lead many commentators to conclude that all is not well
between the Muslim World and the Advanced States in the technological
fields. Muslim States are therefore advised to be conscious of their weakness in
their relationship with the Advanced States. They should not leave things to
chances, but should adopt measures aimed at safeguarding the interest and
well-being of their people as they collaborate with their more advanced
counterparts, with their military might and technological monopoly. They
must also quickly develop strategies to hasten their own self-sufficiency in
technology so as to terminate their subservient condition.
The final question must be asked: how do all these cooperative activities
relate to Islam? Are the objectives of Technology Transfer, the strategies and
methods used, consistent with Islamic religious injunctions?
VI. Technological Co-operation in the Islamic Context
Interaction among States does not offend any known Islamic injunction.
Indeed, Islam encourages positive cooperation between individuals, and
among States as well, irrespective of the religious affiliations of the citizens of
the affected States. The objectives of any cooperation must however be
legitimate according to Islam. For example, Islam would frown upon teaming
up to foment aggressive war or perpetrate immorality.
Technology per se is not anti-Islam, except where a particular technology
has been formulated to promote haram. Indeed, the search for beneficial
knowledge is endorsed by Allah, Most High, since whatever is beneficial
represents the truth. The glorious Qur'an says:
"Soon we show them our signs in the (furtherest) Regions (of the
earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them That
this is the Truth. Is it not enough that Thy Lord doth witness All
things?" (Surah Fussilat, Ch. 41, V. 53)
Therefore, cooperation between Muslim States and Advanced States to
share technological knowledge is in order. Like every other action by Muslims,
steps taken by Muslim States to acquire technology must meet ethical criteria
sanctioned by Islam and the technology must not be misused. The advice
proffered by a leading Muslim Scholar, Ziauddin Sordar in a book on
The Future of Muslim Civilization (l979), (p. 2l2), is most pertinent in the
present context, and provides a cutting end to this study:
" it is an obligation of an opportunity for Muslim technologists to
develop operational forms of an appropriate technology, that satisfies the
needs, hopes and operations of the Muslim people and which reduces resource
consumption, pollution and the oppression and alienation of Muslim people.
To be appropriate for the Muslims, it must relate to their culture, history,
resource, land and climate. The shaping of such a technology will be guided by
ethical criteria and cultural authenticity".




 
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