By Forbes Madziya
Intellectual property is patented for its value and use in the hands of skilled brains. Millions of formulas, inventions and works of art are protected by law worldwide.
It is not protection just for the sentiment attached to the creative ownership of the idea, but an idea, invention or artwork’s worth when materially translated into value for use.
In the world of engineering for example, no economy has managed to move technology frontiers on its own. As such technical and engineering cooperation is a must for any developing economy.
Information has always been crossing borders over the years and we have witnessed the progressive development of nuclear physics, digital, rocket and satellite technology making quantum leaps as scientists in different countries cooperate to subdue the universe for profit and betterment of humanity.
In my last offering, a strong case for research and trial funds from both the Government and the private sector was made.
It is important to point out that in instances where research has been successfully concluded, like nuclear energy, our industry and the public sector must become the highest global bidders for that information. The wheel does not need reinventing. Technology, information, intelligence and ideas are where you find them.
We must, as a country, be head hunters for the most brilliant ideas and brains in the world of nuclear physics. Let other countries mourn of brain drain, not Zimbabwe. The fact behind brain drain is not a sophisticated one. Special skills will always pursue the best reward and it matters less where that is, be it Africa, the middle East or Europe.
During the 1980s, Zimbabwe had a shortage of teachers. Prudently our Government hired from Mauritius, that was brain drain for the exotic little island. With the same passion that we have for foreign direct investment, we must pursue the relocation of genius human resources from industry sectors of global dominance.
Zimbabwe must be comfortable with paying much more for highly sought-after skills than we are used to.
Rewind a little, we should remember the week our media was dominated by the “discovery” of ridiculous salaries made to executives who did not even deserve half of what they were earning.
Such salaries and fees would have been justifiable for expatriates with transferable skills capable of making us global competitors and exporters of high-priced technologies.
To prove the justification for exceptionally high salaries, the national sentiment that rose against bonuses paid to bankers in the United Kingdom did not prevail as bank after bank came out declaring those workers were worth the multimillion pound bonuses. When a skill or competency delivers huge profits for any organisation, the rewards will and must be commensurately high. While government to government technical cooperation has its place, Zimbabwe must be consorting more aggressively with an inventive and innovative foreign private sector and highly skilled individuals.
Globally, I would need to search very hard to find a government department that produced cutting edge technology which reduced unemployment and increased per capita GDP.
State exploits even in America are largely confined to the research and manufacture of ammunition and intelligence gathering from covert operations.
Private sector competitiveness even in ammunition technology is equally a big factor given governments contracts with companies like Lockheed Martin and British Aero-systems.
The strength and ability of the private sector is everywhere to see. We must be a shrewd economy that allows owners of intellectual property to immigrate and transfer relevant and invaluable skills to our local human resource base. Only a handful of yesteryear’s expatriates to Zimbabwe could have been described as highly skilled migrant workers. Most were just ordinary foreigners running away from unemployment at home. There should be no repeat of such waste of foreign currency, paying for skills that can be developed and nurtured locally.
Zimbabwe must buy the best brains in the world, buy the best technical secrets and pay the best price. That is a worthwhile investment, especially if it is for nuclear energy technology expert and secrets. Though it was completely unethical, a Chinese car manufacturer had some Renault executives fired for selling Renault’s company technical secrets to them.
That however informs us of what is happening in industry around the globe. Secret technical information is being sold daily and the Chinese have been excellent bidders for the past two generations.
That gun was going to give the Iraqis space exploration advantages because of the gun’s capacity to fire satellites into orbit from a 156m long barrel inside a hill.
This was simply by Iraqi consorting with a private Canadian arms expert. Today tremendous technical and ammunition secrets are being sold and exported from Russia and North Korea to Iran as Iran seeks to gain and increase its energy, military and defence capabilities. This is prudence on the part of the Iran’s leadership. By no stretch of imagination am I advocating unethical receipt of technical information, but I think our nation needs to be more aggressive in pursuit of it.
America as a nation of immigrants has benefited immensely from their open disposition of welcoming and naturalising the best brains of the world. Their market economics philosophy, as applied to labour markets, has exposed them to competition that has delivered an innovative mindset to its citizens for over 240 years.
American has become home for great ideas as well as men and women who carry them. All that has translated into real development.
The foundational cry of every economy in a digital and industrial world is energy. The price of energy and fuel has been the hinge upon which inflation swings. All over the world, lower energy prices have helped tame the unbridled emotions of inflationary pressures.
We also know there is a direct relationship between energy and development given that our mining, transportation, manufacturing and many more sectors need energy to run efficiently.
We must also accept that hydro energy has proved to have its limits, which have badly hindered production. The development that took place in Europe and America is very closely related to the advancement they made in their energy sector.
Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, will have to take the route of nuclear energy production to power their own industrial, logistical and digital revolution.
The present and future solution of the energy crisis of Zimbabwe is nothing other than nuclear power. We can not continue to import energy when we have uranium deposits that can be enriched for the enrichment of our country.
This is where research and development together with buying the best brains in the world come into profitable play.
Our Government has a present task to headhunt nuclear experts and pay the best price as a just and necessary price for development. When one looks at how Western countries resist the enrichment of uranium in developing countries, you wonder whether it’s a genuine security concern or a conspiracy against our developmental energy needs.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is a high stakes operations independent unit that reports to the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. It is tasked with the job of distinguishing uranium enrichment for energy from that of nuclear weapons.
Its judgment has lately been found impartial when dealing with countries opposed to American policies. Iran and North Korea are today’s nuclear hotspots insofar as the uranium enrichment debate is concerned.
India and Pakistan have had their share in the nuclear technology story.
Why Africa is still out of this vital energy matrix remains an unprofitable mystery. Zimbabwe has uranium deposits. It will be a sheer lack of prudence on the part of the State if we fail to take advantage of such a profitable resource and presently available nuclear technology experts.
Forbes Madziya is a Zimbabwean British Consulting Development Economist.