The rise of the BRICS and resource nationalism: challenge and opportunity for Africa's innovation systems

Type Journal Article - African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development
Title The rise of the BRICS and resource nationalism: challenge and opportunity for Africa's innovation systems
Volume 6
Issue 5
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Page numbers 369-381
A new ‘scramble for Africa’ is presently underway. Unlike that of the late 19th century, this second scramble does not rely upon the capture of assets through extra-territorial force. This time around the capture is not overtly violent, being advanced in the person of multinational corporations, both private and state-owned. The new scramble is intimately linked to the emergence of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Inevitably, African states face difficult choices in their engagement with the state and non-state actors of the BRICS countries. Many African states have weak institutions – administrative, health, education and communications included. In the attempt to advance development, some states have adopted resource nationalism, which has emerged as a response to the new modes of exploitation. There is also evidence of a return to the promotion of the developmental state, an idea that was pushed aside during the triumphal phase of neo-liberalism of the last decades of the twentieth century. These dynamics hold the possibility that resource rents could be deployed generally to energise institutions, and particularly to grow country innovation systems. At present only two African countries, Tunisia and South Africa, display strongly diversified economies that host functioning and reasonably well-articulated innovation systems. Elsewhere, African economies are highly dependent on the primary sector and their innovation systems are emergent or disarticulated. Botswana stands out as an example of a state that has successfully played the resource nationalism card. This paper sets out to explore the politico-economic implications of the BRICS vis-á-vis Africa; the phenomenon of resource nationalism in the context of the developmental state; the nature of African innovation systems; and the possibilities of leveraging financial resources toward economic diversification and innovation system development and consolidation. There is a dearth of studies that locate innovation policy within larger social, political and economic structures. This paper seeks thereby to break this new ground.

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