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Comparative Analysis of Asian Driver and Western Garment-Making Machines: A Case of the Garment Sector in Uganda - David Botchie

9 March 2015

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Over the past two or three centuries, technology transfer to developing countries has largely emanated from developed countries. It has been argued that the technologies made in developed countries are capital- and skills-intensive, rely on high-quality and pervasive infrastructure, and produce products for high-income consumers. In contrast, developing countries over the last two to three decades have witnessed a growing influx of technologies from China and India – Asian Driver economies (ADs). The argument is that AD technologies are more appropriate for the operating conditions in developing countries. This is because they are assumed to be labour-intensive, tolerant to weak infrastructure, low cost, operate on a small-scale basis, accessible and less skills-intensive. In order to validate (or otherwise) these assumptions my research examines the distinctiveness and profitability of AD and developed countries technologies using garment-making machines in Uganda as a case study.

I achieve my objective by building the research on five key economic theories:

  • technical choice
  • appropriate technology
  • technical change
  • the rise of the Asian drivers
  • technology transfer and diffusion.

The technology transfer and diffusion literature has mainly focused on the transfer of technologies from developed to developing economies. Not much has been written on the transfer and diffusion of technologies from one developing country to another. Again studies on AD-African relations have mainly focused on primary commodities and infrastructure. This relationship has not been given much priority in the manufacturing sector despite the importance of the sector to growth in developing economies. I fill these gaps by answering the following research questions:

  1. How is garment equipment from the ADs and developed economies transferred to Uganda?
  2. Does the level of distribution of the AD garment-making machines differ from those of developed countries in Uganda?
  3. How distinctive are AD and developed countries garment-making machines in Uganda?
  4. Does the degree of profitability of the AD garment-making machines differ from those from the developed economies?

Using the simple random sampling approach, my study respectively sampled a total of 11 and 147 large- and small-scale garment-making firms in Uganda. At least two industrial and three small-scale garment-making machines were respectively sampled in each of the large- and small-scale garment firms. The data was collected both in urban and rural areas. This was intended to capture the differences in energy requirement for the AD and developed countries machines.

The study revealed six important findings:

  1. Uganda’s landlocked nature makes the cost of transferring technologies into the country more expensive than to its maritime neighbours Kenya and Tanzania.
  2. Relative to the developed countries machines, the distribution of the AD garment-making machines is wider in Uganda. This spread is a function of access to finance, information and the location of the machine operator.
  3. The assumption that the AD technologies are tolerant to weak infrastructure and are low cost was validated; but contrary to my expectation, the frequent breakdown of the AD garment-making machines makes them skills-intensive.
  4. Relative to the developed countries garment-making machines, the level of profitability of the AD machines is higher in rural areas but lower in urban areas. Thus, the wider spread of the AD garment-making machines does not reflect their level of profitability.
  5. Relative to the developed countries’ machines, the use of manual AD garment-making machines is appropriate for increasing output, creating jobs and small-scale enterprises at a minimum cost.
  6. The AD economies are serving as a source of both hard and soft technologies for developing countries like Uganda.

David Botchie is a research student in Development Policy and Practice, the OU's main centre for teaching and research in development studies and development management. He is part of a group researching the pro-poor nature of Asian Driver capital goods. His areas of interest include global value chains, inclusive innovation, technical change, technology management and transfer.

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