Technology and Frugal Engineering / Innovation

In 2015, Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu co-authored the book Frugal Innovation: “How to Do More With Less”. They defined frugal innovation or frugal engineering as the process of reducing the complexity and cost of design and manufacturing; a similar principal first developed in the late 1940s by Lawrence D. Miles, coined Value Engineering (VA). The need behind VA, much like frugal engineering or innovation, was in response to scarce manufacturing resources needed to build equipment for World War II. The call in support of the war efforts and the devastation by uncontrolled bombings brought most business and the economy across the Europe and the Americas, to its knees. Companies had to innovate during this time despite the rationing of materials and shortages through VA.
The principle behind frugality is in the removal of nonessential features from a durable product such as a vehicle or phone. This approach is indiscriminate and applies to both developing and developed economies owing to various business constraints such as increased costs of manufacture, challenging trade barriers, competing markets etc.… all constraints felt in today’s economies much like in the past, albeit more complex.
Does frugal technology / Innovation / Engineering have a place in Africa? What is in store for Africa come the 21st century?
It is worthy to mention that, Dr Samuel Mensah Sackey of Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), a visiting professor from Ghana, gave a visionary talk on Ghana’s economic way forward in the article below, “Technology is the link”, which may well be the way forward for Africa.

Technology is the linkDr Samuel Mensah Sackey*

*Senior Lecturer of the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology

Dr Samuel Mensah Sackey has advocated for the creation of a Science, Engineering, and Technology Strategy Council, to accelerate the country’s drive towards self-sustaining technological capability.
“As a matter of urgency, Government should create a Science, Engineering, and Technology Strategy Council to oversee, coordinate, and advise government on all issues related to the application of science and engineering towards the development and realisation of an indigenous self-sustaining technological capability in the country comparable to the newly industrialising countries.” he asserted. He further proposed consolidating the Development of Ghana through the Power of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), adding that, “such a council, which should be non-partisan in its work, when created, should be well-resourced and must report directly to the President of the land, or at the very least, the Vice President.”
In addition, Ghana needed to raise its national investment in Research and Development to at least 1.0% of GDP. Dr Sackey said this was necessary to ensure that the country caught up with engineering design and manufacturing, which is at the centre of all industrial activity, as this makes possible the design and production of plant and equipment, capital and consumer engineering products, and provides engineering services to all sectors of the economy. “No industrialised country has missed out on the engineering design and manufacturing industry,” he stressed, adding that “If the Government could get the engineering design and manufacturing industry going, it would have established a strong foundation for the development of a domestic industrial base.
“Progress cannot happen without a corps of well-motivated skilful engineers and scientists at the forefront of the process of creating a manufacturing base, able to design and manufacture capital products comparable to what happens in Asia.” Dr Sackey, who is the KNUST’s representative on the European Union – Africa Tuning project, which seeks to harmonise educational structures and programmes across Africa, to enhance student and staff mobility as well as graduate employability, across borders, also represents the university on the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organisation (SMIDO).
He recommended the composition of the council he proposed, to comprise of;
  1. an industrialist, savvy in manufacturing, engineering, and technology;
  2. an experienced academic, well versed manufacturing and industrial technology and its trends in the modern world;
  3. an economist, savvy in issues related to manufacturing; and
  4. a registered capital goods design and manufacturing practitioner;
Furthermore, he recommended for a representation by;
  • the Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology, who is a scientist, an engineer, or a technologist;
  • the Ministry of Communications who is an ICT professional;
  • the Ministry of Trade and Industry, who must be an engineer;
  • a leading University of Science and Technology; and
  • a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
He said it was because of the lack of technological capability that the country has to depend on importation of skill over local skills. Recalling various failed strategies at industrialization, Dr Sackey said the remedy lies in harnessing the power of education and skills development in human capital formation to underpin technological capability in strategic areas of the economy. [Credit: thebusinessanalystgh@gmail.com]

Ngcobo: Political leadership failed – Nationalisation ‘economic joke’, need jobs

The student protests have brought about lots of change but one of the greatest outcomes is the level of discussion it’s garnered. We’ve heard how ‘unrealistic’ free tertiary education, R12bn cost of yearly dropouts and the Economic Freedom Fighters march to the JSE. In the piece below Bongani Ncgobo looks at the current political leadership and how it has failed on all sides. He fears the talk of nationalisation, which reared its head off the back of the march, as people need jobs to sustain and the promise of giving shares and land to the state or working class is an economic joke, in any language. A fascinating read. – Stuart Lowman

By Bongani Ngcobo*

*Bongani Ngcobo is a former media and investor relations manager at 8Mile Advisory. He specialises in PR, media, BEE, investor relations, corporate identity and image identity.

Bongani_Ngcobo
Bongani Ngcobo

The month of October came to an end, however it marked a new phenomenon in South Africa. A born free generation whose inheritance is an economic slow down and a political leadership vacuum.

However one can not help but admire this generation of university students for their tenacity and ability to accomplish a national protest movement which challenged not only the political establishment. Intellectuals running our biggest universities faced the wrath of a first born free mass protest.

Fast forward to the Economic Freedom Fighters ultimatum to the JSE, which left many unfazed myself included. A 51% stake handed over to employees of all listed entities. I cannot help but wonder what economic advisers of the left are smoking. Winston Churchill said “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy, inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” The leftist thought in South Africa is not that of enterprise development, incentives to growing industries and easier access to the SME space for potential entrepreneurs.

Political leadership on all sides have failed. Opposition parties have failed to lead on genuine grievances of civil society. Communication with the economically and socially disenfranchised has been dismal. Hence opposition politicians where booed by protesting students purely because they are not in the forefront of their problems which began just after the majority of #FeesMustFall students where born in 1994.

Read also: EFF’s Dali Mpofu: Changing the Constitution. Tackling inequality, poverty.

Civil society protest on a number of issues which ranges from corruption in government to rape against the elderly in rural areas, farm attacks, gangster-ism on the rise in many communities to disgruntled rural communities with water shortages.

Leftist hogwash is the order of the day with promises of a better future. A future that land is handed over to those who want it and taking over mines and the so-called monopoly industries. Poor people are being fed a promise, which is a one-way ticket to nowhere. Disenfranchised communities living in poverty can only be economically liberated through policies that are business “friendly.”

The levels of poverty allow populist thought to distort an economic quagmire the country is facing. Intellectuals and business leaders are not part of the debate, big business CEOs are missing in action, as out of touch policies are debated without them. Some say these business leaders are afraid to speak out against government wrongdoing.

A political alternative will not emerge out of ANC incompetence; it will come from communities who have been neglected socially and economically by the political elite. People across the country have grass root movements to represent their grievances. Opposition parties are a no show before news headlines and cameras. They will always be seen as hijackers of these protests whenever they show up to show solidarity in service delivery protests, student protest and other protests.

Read also: UPDATED: Mini Budget chaos as students try to storm Parliament, EFF ejected

Populists thrive on “us” against “them”, the rich against the poor, big business causes poverty or unemployment, the working class against oppressive employers. As 2015 come to an end, a coalition led by expelled COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and labour union NUMSA and others will be launched. This will pose as a united front oppose to all the wrongs of the ANC led government, however its rhetoric on economic prosperity of the country will be nothing new, as matter of fact it will be a cut and paste of the SACP, SADTU and EFF socialism hogwash. The disillusioned will not have a shortage of demagogues in local elections come 2016.

Those outside the outside the far left are waiting for the ruling party to fall on its sword which is highly unlikely in the near future, ideas outside the left are vague clarity on a number of policies is unavailable. The official opposition Democratic Alliance needs to be crystal clear regarding the black middle class because in the near future the fees must fall protesters will be a huge chunk of this class. Contradictions on affirmative action and employment equity will affect every born free graduate between now and 2019 general elections and possibly beyond.

The two economy state phenomenon does not only create fertile ground for populists, its mere existence leads not only the poor it drags all of us into a future of demagogue hell of political economic finger pointing, with threats of nationalisation.

Read also: Anti-Corruption March could be the making of SA’s young democracy

Economic growth and job creation slowing down we need more than ever before a contest in different thoughts on a way forward. How do key industries and entrepreneurs benefit from policies that seek to incentivise job creators? Policies which seek to boost productivity in agriculture, mining, the services sector and SME’s.

A promise of giving shares and land to the state or the working class is unsustainable in any language, an economic joke of note. People need jobs to sustain themselves not nationalisation.

Bottom line is as long as poverty, inequality and joblessness is a reality, demagogues will be the identity of our political reality.

#FeesMustFall

Nzimande withheld report on free varsity education – News24

Oct 23, 2015

Johannesburg – Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande withheld for three years a report that found free university education was viable, the Mail & Guardian reported on Friday.

Nzimande received the study in December 2012 from a working group he appointed in 2010. The group, chaired by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University vice-chancellor Derrick Swartz, investigated the best model for free tertiary education.

It proposed that the system would be similar to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, where applicants would have to prove they could not afford fees.

Salim Vally, a University of Johannesburg associate professor who was in the working group, told the newspaper he did not know why the report was not released to the public.

Costly

Department of Higher Education spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana reportedly said Nzimande sent the report to the Treasury in 2012 to find out if they could fund the model.

Nkwanyana said Treasury concluded it would be costly and would compromise on things like social grants.

He said the best option was to continue expanding NSFAS and that he could release the report at any time, when given the go-ahead, so that criticisms could be addressed.

The Treasury said government had drastically increased funding to NFSAS.

On Friday thousands of protesting students will descend on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to confront President Jacob Zuma.

They will wait for the president’s comments on the tuition fee hike debate that has gripped the country since last Wednesday.

The protest started when Wits University students protested against a proposed 10.5% fee hike. It then spread to campuses nationwide.

Police had used stun grenades to disperse large groups of protesters, most notably on Wednesday when students stormed the Parliament precinct while Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was delivering his mid-term budget.

News24

To be or not to be….

What does ‘bread and circuses’ mean?
by Laurie L. Dove

You’ve just cajoled the last lo mein noodle out of a takeout container and narrowly avoided choking on it, thanks to the dangerously hilarious comedy special you’re watching. Then, just as soon as you’ve begun to recover, that friend starts texting — railing against the inadequacies and inequities of local government. Instead of replying, though, you put your phone on vibrate and turn back to the entertainment at hand. It’s just too difficult to get upset when your belly is full and your mind is distracted.

The idea that people can be pacified by food and entertainment when they should be rallying to their prescribed civic duties isn’t a new one. In fact, the concept was first described in ancient times by the satirical Roman poet Juvenal, who penned the Latin term panem et circenses, which means “bread and circuses.”

“Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses,” he wrote, lamenting the failure of citizens to take action as the democratic Roman Republic fell and the heavy-handed Roman Empire began.

Within a mere 100 years, Rome underwent massive governmental changes. What in 133 B.C.E. was a free republic that relied on a voting populace and an assembly system morphed into an embittered autocracy by the first century C.E. [source: Beard].

Thus, Juvenal’s term, “bread and circuses” went viral, used by scores of people — then and now — to describe people who voluntarily trade their democratic freedoms in exchange for stable-yet-controlling government.

Back then, the Roman government kept the Roman people pacified by offering them free food and rousing entertainment in the Roman Colosseum. Now, “bread and circuses” applies to any civic or governmental entity — or any situation, really — in which the masses willingly accept short-term solutions to ease their discontent.

The “bread and circuses” concept is also a fitting descriptor for Dominant Ideology. Dominant Ideology is a Marxist construct exemplified by the idea that economically disadvantaged classes will accept that it’s their fate to remain so [source: Purdue].

It’s possible that the moral of the story is one of independence — in thought, action and economics. And especially when it comes to the Roman Colosseum.