|Exporting Africa: Technology, Trade and Industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1995, 434 pages)|
|Part II. Country studies|
To clarify certain points, we have probed deeper into the relation between the export experience of the enterprises in the sample and their level of technology. It appears that the firms generally use modern technology and invest in new and more efficient equipment in order to increase production capacity, improve product quality and cut costs. At the oil refinery, recent purchases of equipment comprise a continuous refining plant (1988) and bottle blowing and filling equipment (1992). The firm now has on order a bleaching and filtration plant. The fertilizer firm has installed a modern nitric acid plant and an NPK plant. Its latest piece of equipment is a high-efficiency nitric acid absorption column acquired from Rhone Poulenc under a licence agreement. The knitwear firm has this year installed new equipment for knitting and dyeing. Its aim is to keep in step with technological improvements elsewhere in order to introduce more advanced production methods to fulfil export orders and cut costs. The firm endeavours to maintain its position on export markets through productivity increases with the use of modern technology. It also achieves cost reductions through better control of raw material, reduction of wastage and just-in-time stock procurement. The paint manufacturer also uses up-to-date technology. The last piece of equipment was acquired in 1992, with the aim of increasing production capacity. The firm uses up-to-date production methods to cut costs and remain competitive. It has secured a foothold in export markets owing to its reputation for quality and competitive prices.
In short, it appears that these enterprises are generally innovative and keep up with technological improvements. Better organization of production and the use of modern equipment for greater efficiency, quality improvement and cost reduction are the main aspects of their competitive strategies. These enterprises purchase their equipment directly from machinery suppliers who generally send their own technicians for the installation of the equipment. Routine servicing and maintenance are performed by the firms' own staff or are contracted out to local workshops.
The next question concerned the extent to which the firms acquired new skills and improved their organization as a result of their export experience. The oil refinery acquired new skills through regular contracts with leaders in the edible oil industry and professional institutions. It claims to have gained considerable experience in achieving customer satisfaction since it introduced a market-oriented strategy two years ago' after a 23-year monopoly of the local market and a production-oriented strategy. The fertilizer firm states that its export experience has been very beneficial in improving its marketing skills. It now has considerable experience and plans to start a free port trading company. The paint manufacturer has introduced new types of products to suit the requirements of export markets. For the knitwear firm, production is directly related to international market requirements and this has necessitated continuous improvements in skills, standards and organization.
How far have the firm's past industrialization histories helped in building skills for subsequent exporting? This question concerned only those ISE firms that have recently begun to export. According to the fertilizer firm, past industrialization experience helped a good deal but 'export is a game which [the firm] had to learn the hard way through extensive marketing missions'. The oil firm for its part attributes its recent performance on export markets to its new market-oriented strategy and its emphasis on consumer satisfaction. In the case of the paint manufacturer, local production enabled the firm to set up a research and development laboratory staffed with good technicians. As a result the firm can now supply 'tailor-made' products for the export market.
Generally it appears that the recent entry of ISE enterprises to export markets builds on experience gained over the years in producing for the local market. To that extent the export market may be seen as an outgrowth of the domestic market. Exporting forms part of a rational strategy for those firms' future expansion and development.