Transnational corporations and technology transfer in Southern Africa: some conceptual and policy issues
Mudenda, Gilbert N.
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Transnational corporations (TNCs) are something of a paradox in the political economy of African countries. In the late 1960s TNCs were seen as a grave threat to national sovereignity and today, they are seen more as fellow travellers towards national development. The nationalisations of the 1960s were seen as 'an excellent weapon with which to attack a world economic system perceived to be operated by the rich, for the rich.'1 Today, Tanzania is imploring Lonrho to come back and run her tea estates, Zambia is privatising her manufacturing industries and Zimbabwe is doing good business with H.J. 2 Heinz. This strange turnabout is, it is alleged, largely due to necessary technological inputs that the TNCs have. This paper will argue that this position is based on a misunderstanding of the functioning of contemporary imperialism; and that if persued to its logical conclusion African countries cannot hope to develop. This paper is devided into three main parts. The first part will attempt to clear some conceptual issues relating to the changing face of contemporary capitalism. The second part will outline the major mechanisms through which TNCs commercialise technology in the Southern African region; and the third part will address some policy issues.